Metro News Release

For immediate release: February 10, 2010

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Metrorail to remain underground Thursday
Metrobus, MetroAccess service also suspended

Brentwood Metrorail Yard
Brentwood Metrorail yard remains covered in snow Wednesday, Feb. 10.

Metrorail service will remain limited to underground stations only and Metrobus and MetroAccess service are expected to remain suspended on Thursday, Feb. 11, after two back-to-back blizzards dumped record amounts of snow on the Washington Metropolitan region.

For much of the day Wednesday, Feb. 10, Metro’s snow-removal crews were forced to wait out the blizzard as heavy snow and strong winds created unsafe working conditions. More than a thousand Metro employees have been working in 12-hour shifts since last Friday’s snowstorm to dig out from the snow and provide as much service as possible.

Metro will continue efforts to clear above-ground Metrorail tracks into Thursday, and service is expected to remain limited to underground stations only. Metrobuses and MetroAccess vehicles are expected to remain parked as many area roadways and side streets remain covered in snow. However, Metro officials will be monitoring road conditions constantly with an eye toward expanding service levels when conditions improve.

On Thursday, Feb. 11, the Metrorail system will open at 5 a.m. and trains will service underground stations at intervals of 24 to 30 minutes from opening until midnight as follows:

• The Red Line will be split into two segments. It will operate between Union Station and Medical Center Metrorail stations and between Glenmont and Forest Glen Metrorail stations.
• The Blue and Orange Lines will both operate between Ballston and Stadium-Armory Metrorail stations.
• The Green Line will run between Fort Totten and Congress Heights Metrorail stations.
• The Yellow Line will run only between the Pentagon and Crystal City Metrorail stations.

The Metrorail system consists of 86 stations and 106 miles of track. Forty stations along 55.5 miles of track are above ground and 46 stations along 50.5 miles of track are underground. All 40 above-ground stations will remain closed Thursday.

The Metrorail system can operate well in snowfall of less than eight inches, however once the snow accumulation tops eight inches, it covers the electrified third rail, which is critical to providing power to move the trains.

Additionally, heavy snowfall often damages electronic components located in the undercarriage of rail cars. For that reason, Metro is storing almost half of its rail fleet underground to help protect the rail cars from the damage caused by ice and snow.

The biggest challenges facing Metrorail at above-ground stations is heavy snowfall, snow drifts that cover tracks after they are cleared, and ice along the electrified third rail. That ice will prevent the transfer of electricity from the tracks to the train.

There is a multi-stepped approach to clearing tracks of ice and snow. A heavy-duty diesel powered train called a prime mover clears the majority of snow and ice from the tracks. Then those trains move to the rail yards, where more miles of track are used to store hundreds of rail cars. Once the prime movers are off of the rails, trains equipped with de-icing equipment are run on the tracks to keep them clear of snow and ice build-up. These trains are used to apply a de-icing agent and are referred to as rail “polishers” because they go back and forth keeping the third rail ice-free. The next step to prepare tracks for service is to clear the snow and ice from interlocking or switches, which allows trains to switch tracks, reverse direction or turn around. If an interlocking is not clear of snow or ice, there is no way to maneuver around a train that becomes disabled.

As stretches of track are cleared of snow and ice, the tracks are deemed safe for moving passenger trains.

How to get Updates on Winter Weather Conditions

There are a variety of ways for customers to stay informed during a major storm. Metro constantly updates local news media of Metro service changes. Information is also available on Metro’s home page at Customers also can subscribe to receive Metro’s news releases and e-Alerts to receive up-to-date service disruption information on Metrorail and MetroAccess.

News release issued at 6:31 pm, February 10, 2010.

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