DC Abruptly Shuts Down Metrorail for 29 Hours
Move will paralyze region's transport Wednesday
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 16, 2016 1:46 AM CDT
A Washington Metro train leaves Union Station.   (AP Photo/Gene J.Puskar)

(Newser) – The Metrorail system in Washington, DC, has shut down for emergency inspections following an electrical fire Monday that sent smoke into a tunnel. The system shut down at midnight on Tuesday, just hours after the 29-hour closure was announced, paralyzing the area's transit system and snarling the travel plans of hundreds of thousands of people, the Washington Post reports. Paul Wiedefeld, the system's general manager, says that since Monday's fire appears very similar to a fire that killed one passenger and injured dozens early last year, delaying safety inspections any longer would be too risky.

"It's happened twice in a year. I can't wait for the third time," Wiedefeld says, per WTOP. "While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here and this is why we must take this action immediately." He adds that although he realizes the unprecedented shutdown will cause hardship for many of the system's 700,000 daily users, safety is the highest priority. The federal Office of Personnel Management says federal agencies in the region will be open on Wednesday, but workers will be able to take unscheduled leave or work from home. Authorities say the system should be running again by 5am on Thursday—if no major problems are found during the inspections.