(WASHINGTON) — With the entire Washington, D.C., subway system closed for emergency inspections, commuters in the nation’s capital — a city largely reliant on its metro system — struggled to function in crowded buses and on congested roads Wednesday morning.
“It was just horrible. I had to ride the bus,” said Seni Compaore, who usually commutes from northeast D.C. to Rosslyn, Virginia, via the Washington Metro. “I’m definitely going to be late for work.”
In an unprecedented move, Washington Metro Area Transit Authority CEO Paul Wiedefeld on Tuesday announced that the entire system would be shut down for at least 29 hours while inspectors performed safety checks on the system’s 600 jumper cables.
Wiedefeld said he could not rule out a “life safety issue” without temporarily shuttering the system for inspections, based on the investigation into an electrical fire that sparked major delays on three lines Monday, as well as “disturbing” commonalities between that fire and a deadly smoke incident that killed one woman at another station last year.
“I fully recognize the hardship this causes to the region,” Wiedefeld told reporters Tuesday. But, “the safety of the public and my employees is paramount.”
The hardship was easy to spot Wednesday morning.
“It was pretty rough, it was pretty bad. Everything was backed up,” commuter Reggie Newsome said. “Metro shutting down really hurt the city.”
Metro CEO Wiedefeld said he hoped to have trains up and running by 5 a.m. Thursday. But if inspectors identify defective cables, the system could see additional closures or delays while repairs are made.
Meanwhile, the federal government encouraged workers to opt for telework or even take unscheduled leave. D.C. public schools remained open, but the district said tardiness and absences will be excused.
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