Washington's Metrorail, the second-busiest U.S. subway system,
will reopen at 5 a.m. EDT after crews wrap up checks of power
cables, Paul Wiedefeld, general manager of the Washington
Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, said on Wednesday.
He told a news conference that some of the 91 stations on the
119-mile (190-km) system may remain closed if repairs were not
finished by the scheduled reopening time.
"Our intention is to finish them in the evening," Wiedefeld said. He
added that 26 defective cables had been found and 18 had been
The shutdown of Metrorail at midnight on Tuesday prompted many of
the estimated 700,000 people who ride the system on a typical
weekday to complain that they had little time to prepare before it
was announced on Tuesday afternoon. The shuttering was intended to
give safety crews time to inspect 600 underground cables that could
pose a fire risk.
The shutdown also raised concerns about the safety of a system
serving the U.S. capital and its Maryland and Virginia suburbs that
has long been plagued by smoky tunnels, breakdowns and deadly
accidents. It was the first time the system had been closed for
something other than bad weather since it started operating in the
The closure was no windfall for the city's cab drivers, many of whom
said the heavy traffic was hurting their business.
Rayna Smith, 30, said it was standing room only on the bus she took
to work at the Council of the District of Columbia, unusual on a
route where she normally finds a seat.
"It was jam-packed," Smith said. "But it was also pretty quiet, no
one was really talking ... I guess we were all just suffering in
U.S. government offices, Congress and most schools remained open,
although the Office of Personnel Management, which oversees the
federal workforce, gave employees the option of taking unscheduled
leave or working from home.
U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the shutdown was
necessary for a system where 18 people have been killed in rail
accidents in the past 34 years.
"WMATA has a long, well-documented list of safety issues and needs
to work aggressively to fix them," Foxx said in a statement. "While
this shutdown is inconvenient, they are doing the right thing by
putting the safety of their passengers and workers first."
Ted Cox, a 62-year-old immigration lawyer from New York, was among
the many people who complained about crumbling infrastructure and
gridlock stemming from the untimely subway shutdown.
[to top of second column]
"What kind of country are we in, that the nation's capital can't run
a metro system?" he said. "It's sort of on a par with the
infrastructure in the rest of the country. Hopefully this will get
the attention of legislators to deal with infrastructure in
Cab drivers said traffic limited the number of trips they could
"Everywhere is crowded," said Asamenew Tesfaye as he drove a yellow
cab in from suburban Alexandria, Virginia. "It looks busy for
everybody, but we make less money than the other days."
Some commuters took to Twitter to express frustration at delays and
crowding on buses, making #MetroShutdown the top-trending hashtag in
the United States on Wednesday morning.
One user joked that the city should flood the subway tunnels to the
level of the platforms and rely on Venetian gondolas rather than
Ride service Uber [UBER.UL] said it would cap surge pricing in the
Washington area at 3.9 times base fares during the shutdown. San
Francisco-based rival Lyft, meanwhile, said it was offering new
customers $20 off their first ride.
Some commuters found more creative solutions to their transport
woes. Brendan Norwood-Pearson, a 20-year-old junior at American
University, said he was in class in the morning when he realized the
subway shutdown could leave him late for work at the Smithsonian
National Air and Space Museum.
His best option, he decided, was the skateboard he navigated at a
blistering pace alongside the National Mall.
"The buses take too long to get down here," Norwood-Pearson said. "A
skateboard takes 35 minutes to get down here and in a bus it's an
(Additional reporting by Diane Bartz, Lindsay Dunsmuir, David
Shepardson and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Brendan O'Brien in
Milwaukee; Suzannah Gonzales in Chicago; and Reuters Television;
Writing by Scott Malone; Editing by Lisa Von Ahn and Tom Brown)
[© 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights
Copyright 2016 Reuters. All rights reserved. This material may not be published,
broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.