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Metrorail to Be Shut Down All Day Wednesday for Emergency Inspections


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The entire D.C. Metrorail system will be shut down Wednesday for emergency equipment inspections after an investigation revealed similarities between smoke that filled a tunnel near L'Enfant Plaza in January 2015, killing a Virginia woman, and a cable fire Monday, Metro officials say.

Metro needs to inspect about 600 underground jumper cables, Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld announced at a news conference Tuesday afternoon. News4's Tom Sherwood was first to report the news, based on information from sources.

An initial investigation into the cable fire at the McPherson Square station early Monday showed its cause may have been similar to the cause of the smoke Jan. 12, 2015, that killed a 61-year-old woman and injured dozens of people, Wiedefeld said.

"While the investigation is ongoing, the preliminary findings show commonalities with the cable fire in L'Enfant Plaza a year ago," he said.

"While the risk to public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here," he said. "This is why we must take this issue immediately. When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it."

Metrorail has never shut down, except for weather-related causes, since beginning to operate in 1976, Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans said.

Federal employees have the option to work from home or take unscheduled leave, the U.S. Office of Personnel Management announced about 6 p.m. Tuesday.

Wiedefeld said he chose to have crews inspect the entire system all at once rather than to spread out the work over a longer period of time.

"If we do it piecemeal, this could take weeks," he said.

The Metro boss said he thinks the work will be complete by the time Metrorail is set to open at 5 a.m. Thursday.

"We feel that we can do it in that time period," Wiedefeld said.

The closure of Metrorail, which transports about 730,000 people on an average weekday and is the backbone of commuting throughout the nation's capital and the region, will disrupt the daily routines of hundreds of thousands of workers.

D.C. Streetcar was among the other transit agencies that responded, reminding commuters that there are some other options. Still, traffic on area roads on Wednesday morning could be extremely heavy.

Parking in all Metro garages will be free Wednesday for customers taking buses or carpooling, Metro announced.

D.C. public schools will be open Wednesday, the school system announced Tuesday evening. DCPS is working with Metro to add bus service. Absences and tardiness will be excused, DCPS said in a tweet.

One Metro rider died and dozens were hurt Jan. 12, 2015 after a Metro train filled with smoke near the L'Enfant Plaza station. Carol Inman Glover, 61, of Alexandria, Virginia, was a beloved mother and grandmother who had just won her company's employee of the year award.

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