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Metro Service Resumes After Electrical Problems Detected and Repaired

The nation's second busiest subway system reopened as planned on Thursday at 5 a.m. after being shut down for safety reasons on Wednesday after fixing several electrical problems found in 26 areas during the inspection. Electrical problems hit BART.
March 18, 2016, 8am PDT | Irvin Dawid
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"Metro was shuttered for an unprecedented full day of service Wednesday for emergency inspections, resulting from information learned about an electrical fire in a tunnel early Monday," write Dana HedgpethShawn Boburg and Faiz Siddiqui for The Washington Post.

Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld ordered the system closed so that crews could inspect 600 cables identical to those involved in the Monday fire. He said crews identified 26 areas where electrical cables or the boots that connect them to the third rails were damaged or frayed.

Damage was so severe in three areas that had officials been aware, Metro would immediately have stopped running trains through them. Those cables were repaired during the system shutdown

In a March 17 update of an piece published last June, The Post posted photos of frayed cable along with charts showing the "216 total smoke and fire incidents on Metrorail in 2015, more than double the total for 2014." The piece details what was found and how the problems were corrected.

The worst of the incidents occurred on Jan. 12, 2015 when a passenger died aboard a smoke-filled train at the L'Enfant Plaza Metro Station.

The “jumper cable” electrical fire that occurred Monday morning "was eerily reminiscent" of last year's fatal fire, report Ashley Halsey IIIMichael Laris and Katherine Shaver. As for traffic conditions on Wednesday without Metrorail operating, "(d)uring both morning and evening rush hours, traffic was not much heavier than usual for a Wednesday, and some drivers found it lighter than average," they write.

Traffic experts said it would be days before clear conclusions can be drawn about how badly — or gently — the absence of Metro hit the region.

Metro management and the leadership of the three jurisdictions the system serves — the District, Maryland and Virginia — came under attack on Capitol Hill on Wednesday as the Senate Appropriations Committee considered a transportation bill.

While legislators were quick to point the finger at Metro management, Streetsblog Network's Angie Schmitt reminds us that "Metro’s troubles could be the canary in the coal mine for other transit systems."

Transit Center notes that “all of the systems… have significant unmet capital needs and should be investing more,” and that Metro “is hardly the only subway system in the country that could see significant trouble ahead.”

Speaking of which, Metro's slightly older sibling, the Bay Area Rapid Transit District (BART), came under fire, not quite literally but close to it, on its Pittsburg / Bay Point (East Bay) line, shutting down service between Pittsburg and North Concord stations. "The problems began around 9:30 a.m. Wednesday when a mysterious power surge knocked out electricity to at least 25 BART cars, and by Thursday morning that number had grown to 50, write Kale Williams and Hamed Aleaziz for the San Francisco Chronicle.

Engineers have been working around the clock since the trouble began Wednesday morning, officials said, and BART was flying in an outside expert in power control and protection to help try to diagnose the problem.

There was no BART service between the two stations as of press time, and is not expected to resume through Friday.

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Published on Thursday, March 17, 2016 in The Washington Post
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