Metro prepares for winter weather season
Modified ice scraper, plowed roadways key to improving rail and bus service
As the leaves begin to fall, Metro is making plans for the first snow fall of the season. In addition to preparing 559 pieces of snow equipment and informing customers about its snow operating procedures, this year, Metro is taking added steps to better prepare for winter.
Among the actions being taken to continue rail service during inclement weather, Metro will prioritize the Yellow Line Bridge to ensure the vital connection to the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia for rail riders, as well as accelerate the movement of track maintenance support equipment in removing snow and ice more effectively.
Metro engineers have modified ice scrapers on its rail equipment to help keep tracks clear of ice and snow; its bus department has informed local jurisdictions as to which snow emergency routes need to be plowed to maintain bus service to as many communities as possible; and new snow removal equipment has been ordered, all in an effort to improve service during inclement winter weather.
To help keep bus service operational, Metro is leasing four Bobcats and equipping six additional trucks with plows that will be used to clear away snow and ice from its bus garages. Metro also is purchasing up to 70 new snow blowers for this coming winter to accelerate snow removal from station platforms and entrance walkways, allowing customers safe passage on and off Metro property.
When inclement weather hits the region this winter, Metro will have up to 20 trains equipped with de-icing equipment to combat snow and ice on the electrified third rail, which must be clear to allow electricity to flow to move the trains. Twelve trains will be available to operate in regular passenger service on all rail lines with the remaining eight trains used to clear rail yards. Those same trains also will have a modified ice scraper to help keep snow and ice off the third rail. Keeping the third rail snow- and ice-free is a continuous process and the modified scrapers will assist in the removal of snow and ice.
Metro also uses “heater tape,” a cable clipped onto the third rail that is turned on when temperatures dip below the freezing mark, which will be in use throughout the winter to keep the third rail warm enough to prevent ice from forming.
Metrorail will operate very close to a normal schedule in snowfall of up to six inches. However once snow reaches a depth of eight inches, it is difficult to operate reliable train service because snow starts to cover the third rail. As a result, Metrorail service may be suspended above-ground when snow accumulation reaches eight inches or more. Underground-only operations also allows for continuous connections to key activity centers in downtown Washington and the Pentagon, and helps ensure a more rapid return of full service by sparing rail cars from weather-related damage by storing them underground. It also allows crews to focus on clearing snow from above-ground tracks.
If Metro closes above ground portions of the Metrorail system, underground service would operate as follows:
-- Red Line: Medical Center to Union Station and Forest Glen to Glenmont
-- Orange Line: Ballston-MU to Stadium-Armory
-- Green Line: Fort Totten to Congress Heights
-- Yellow Line: Pentagon to Crystal City
-- Blue Line: Ballston-MU to Stadium-Armory
During inclement weather, as conditions deteriorate, Metrobus service will be modified as local road conditions change. Metrobus will first reduce service, then, limit service to snow emergency routes. However, if snow accumulates to unsafe levels, Metro will halt all bus service until it is safe to resume service. As a reminder, Metro relies on the local jurisdictions to clear snow from bus stops. Metro does not clear or shovel bus stops.
MetroAccess will also operate during inclement weather, but service will be modified throughout the day as road conditions deteriorate causing unsafe driving conditions. However, if roadways become unsafe, MetroAccess will stop all service.
During heavy snowfall, riders who use Metrorail parking facilities can expect the top decks of parking garages will be closed. Metro will concentrate on making sure that pedestrian access is clear and accessible, allowing customers safe passage on and off Metro property before focusing on the removal of snow piles from the top decks of parking garages. Parking lot clearing is a continuous process.
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 at www.metroopensdoors.com or by calling Metro at 202-637-7000. Customers can also subscribe to e-Alerts and receive up-to-date service disruption information on Metrorail and MetroAccess.
News release issued at 12:45 pm, October 21, 2010.