Connolly wants personnel shake-up at WMATA after Metro shutdown

Metro map

WMATA Metrorail service resumes Thursday at 5 a.m. but tempers are still boiling after today’s emergency shutdown to inspect jumper cables like the one that started a fire Monday, and Rep. Gerry Connolly (D-Va.) says it’s time for “significant personnel changes at the highest levels of Metro’s management.”

Today’s inspection found 26 jumpers with defects and had repaired 18 of them by late afternoon. Crews are hoping to repair the others overnight in time for tomorrow morning’s service resumption but it’s possible there will be more disruptions tomorrow on at least parts of the system, Metro General Manager Paul J. Wiedefeld said.

Connolly said the defects found today should have been fixed long ago.

“Today’s inspection of power cables throughout the Metrorail system revealed disturbing safety shortfalls that should have been identified and fixed immediately following last year’s tragic L’Enfant incident, if not sooner. Based on the images released by Metro, several of those cables were at risk of causing another fire,” he said.

“This incident highlights the need for General Manager Wiedefeld to make significant personnel changes at the highest levels of Metro’s management. Those responsible for allowing these issues to languish should step down or be removed,” Connolly added.

Defective jumpers

Weidefeld said the defective jumpers were found in 11 areas throughout the Metrorail system, shown on the map above. He apologized to riders for the inconvenience but said the emergency inspection was necessary.

“Throughout this intense inspection deployment, our focus has been on effectively mitigating fire risks,” said Wiedefeld. “We are being as clear as we can about what actions we have taken so that customers and employees feel safe as they ride Metro tomorrow.”

Metro’s Safety investigators are reviewing the history of the damaged boots and cables, and all findings will be shared with Federal Transit Administration (FTA) and National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). Investigators will then review inspection records, age of materials and maintenance records to identify any procedures that were not followed or standards that were not met.

The suspension of Metrorail service on Wednesday followed an early morning electrical fire involving a cable in the tunnel outside McPherson Square Station on Monday, March 14. There were no injuries; however, service was disrupted along the Blue, Orange and Silver lines throughout the day.

Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-Va.) took the floor of the House to call for a change in the safety culture at Metro.


About the Author

Truman Lewis
A former reporter and bureau chief, Truman Lewis has covered presidential campaigns, state politics and stories ranging from organized crime to environmental and consumer protection.