Metro News Release

For immediate release: December 20, 2009

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Western end of Red Line above ground service to resume at 8 p.m.; Metrobus service suspended as of 7 p.m. due to ice
Limited Metrobus, MetroAccess service expected Monday; Metro staff continue to clear above-ground tracks

Metro’s Red Line from Shady Grove Metrorail station to Union Station will reopen at 8 p.m. tonight, which will add five above-ground stations to those that are open. The five additional stations are Shady Grove, Rockville, Twinbrook, White Flint and Grosvenor-Strathmore Metrorail stations. Intervals between trains will be 24 to 30 minutes.

Unfortunately the limited Metrobus service that had been available earlier today was suspended at 7 p.m. tonight due to the re-icing of roads. Officials will reevaluate road conditions in the morning.

For Monday morning, commuters should expect very limited bus service as well as MetroAccess service as icy conditions on roadways continue to be a barrier to providing service. MetroAccess service for Monday will be limited to ¾ of a mile from all bus routes that are operating. MetroAccess customers will be contacted if their trips will be cancelled.

Metro staff continue to make progress in clearing the above-ground tracks, however there have been reports of some re-icing of the electrified third rail as the temperatures drop and the winds are blowing snow back onto the tracks.

Yellow Line Metrorail service was expanded late Sunday afternoon, but with that bit of good news also came unwelcome news of the re-icing of local roadways as temperatures continued to drop into the evening.

Metro officials reopened the Yellow Line Bridge over the Potomac River at 4 p.m. today, reconnecting that area of Northern Virginia with the District of Columbia via the Metrorail system and within a half hour the Yellow Line was extended three more stations to include Archives/Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter, Gallery Place-Chinatown and Mt. Vernon Sq./Convention Center Metrorail stations.

The Yellow Line is operating from Crystal City Metrorail station in Arlington, VA, to Mt. Vernon Sq./Convention Center Metrorail station in the District of Columbia with trains serving stations in that stretch of track every 12 to 15 minutes.

Yellow Line Bridge and the five Red Line above-ground stations on the western end of that line represent early stages of what is expected to be a series of staggered reopenings of above-ground track that have been closed since Saturday afternoon, December 19.

Fewer than two dozen Metrobus routes were in service today due to snowy and icy conditions that persist on the region’s roadways. As of 5:30 p.m., 22 routes were operating limited service in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia. All of those routes saw buses called back to the garages by 7 p.m. due to the refreezing of roadways.

Limited service was established today on the following bus routes in the District of Columbia: the 70 line, the 90 line, the S line, the L line, the V8, the 30 line, the X2, the 80 line, the U8, the 50 line, the A2, A6, W2, W6 and W8. In Virginia the 16 line in Arlington and Fairfax counties is operating. In Montgomery County the K6, Q2, 45, 46 and 48 are operating. In Prince George’s County the B30 was also running.

Riders should be mindful of slippery roads, which are being used as walkways because most sidewalks remain covered with snow.

MetroAccess remains closed today. Officials will continue to evaluate rail and road conditions throughout the evening with an eye toward reestablishing bus, paratransit and expanding rail service when conditions are safe enough to do so.

Metro has 86 stations and 106-miles of track. Forty-seven stations along 50.5 miles of track are located underground and 39 stations along 55.5 miles of track are above ground. Trains have been servicing stations at 24- to 30-minute intervals as follows:

Red Line – Service between Shady Grove and Union Station only
Orange and Blue Lines – Service between Ballston and Stadium-Armory only
Green Line – Service between Fort Totten and Congress Heights only
Yellow Line – Service from Mt. Vernon Sq./Convention Center to Crystal City only at 12 to 15-minute intervals

Clearing the above-ground tracks is a process that takes several steps. The heavy duty diesel-powered equipment, known as prime movers, clear the majority of the snow from the two non-electrified tracks. Once they are finished doing their job on the service tracks, they will shift their focus into the rail yards, where hundreds of trains and miles of additional tracks remain under more than a foot of snow. More railcars are needed for weekday commuters than are needed for weekend service, so it is crucial that the rail yards are cleared.
Dozens of railcars were stored in the underground tunnels Friday and Saturday nights to keep them free of snow and ice, however hundreds of railcars had to be stored in the rail yards, where they remain buried.

Once the prime movers are off the rails then trains equipped with de-icing equipment run on the tracks to ensure that the electrified third rail is clear of snow and ice. These trains apply a de-icing agent and they make several sweeps of the tracks. For that reason they are referred to as “polishers.” The next step to prepare the tracks for service is to clear the snow and ice from interlockings or switches, which allow trains to switch tracks, reverse direction or turn around. For instance, if a train becomes disabled, the trains behind the disabled train can only move around it by switching tracks at an interlocking. If the interlockings are not clear of the snow and ice, there is no way to maneuver around disabled trains.

As stretches of track are cleared of snow and ice, and the tracks are deemed safe for moving passenger trains, Metro officials are likely to resume service to above-ground stations in phases.

Road conditions have thwarted the efforts of many Metro employees who have had difficulty reporting to work. In some instances, supervisors in SUVs have gone to the homes of employees to pick them up and take them to their worksites. More than 100 bus operators who were originally scheduled to work today called in to report that they were not able to report either because they were unable to drive to the bus garages or because they called in sick. More than 100 train operators and station managers also did not report for duty today for the same reasons. If road conditions do not improve, staffing levels may be a challenge for Metro on Monday as employees may be unable to report for duty.

Metrorail employees and contractors who were able to get to their worksites were working throughout the night Saturday and will to continue to work throughout the night on Sunday to clear the rails of ice and snow and to clear platforms, sidewalks, parking facilities and pathways to rail stations. In addition to the tracks, employees and contractors have been focusing on clearing the entrance areas of underground stations, including shoveling of snow off of exposed escalators, many of which have come to a halt due to packed ice and snow in moving parts. About 80 escalators that serve underground stations have been stopped by the heavy snow and ice, and rail customers are encouraged to use station elevators from the street into and out of the station when possible.

Customers can expect to see surface parking facilities piled with snow, consuming approximately 15 percent of the spaces where vehicles usually park. The top level of parking decks also are expected to have large snow piles on them as the surfaces are cleared. Parking lot clearing also will continue throughout Sunday night.

Heavy accumulation of snow on the rails on Saturday, December 19, forced Metrorail officials to limit train service to underground stations starting at 1 p.m. when rapidly deteriorating weather conditions impacted the safe movement of trains. Metrobus and paratransit service also were stopped at 1 p.m. on Saturday due to unsafe road conditions.

The decision to halt above-ground train service was made due to heavy snowfall that began to cover the electrified third rail, which is situated eight inches above the ground. The third rail must be clear of snow and ice because it is the source of electricity that powers the trains.

Metro started the weekend with 2,200 tons of bulk rock salt to treat Metro roadways and parking lots and 18,000, 50-pound bags of de-icer for treating sidewalks and platforms. More than 300 snow-trained employees plus contractors have been working day and night throughout the weekend to treat snowy and icy surfaces at Metrorail stations.

Metro also is using “heater tape,” which has been installed on sections of track with significant grades/inclines and in critical areas in the rail yards. The heater tape is a cable clipped onto the electrified third rail that is turned on when temperatures dip below the freezing mark. It helps keep ice from forming on the third rail.

How to get Updates on Winter Weather Conditions

There are a variety of ways for customers to stay informed about Metro service levels. Metro constantly updates local news media of Metro service changes. Information is also available on Metro’s home page at Customers can also subscribe to e-Alerts and receive up-to-date service disruption information on Metrorail and MetroAccess. Resources at Metro’s Customer Call Center are limited because employees were unable to get to their offices, and as a result, waits for a customer service agent were very long today.


News release issued at 7:33 pm, December 20, 2009.

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