Metro Shutting Down Entire D.C. System for Emergency Inspections

Today is the Ides of March, but Washington is aiming for a tragedy more reminiscent of the apocalypse as the Metro subway system will shut down entirely on Wednesday.

D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said she wasn't consulted on the closure decision, which follows an early-morning tunnel fire near McPherson Square on Monday.

Metro General Manager/CEO Paul J. Wiedefeld said emergency inspection is needed of the third rail on all of the system tracks spanning 91 stations and six lines.

"While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here, and that is why we must take this action immediately," Wiedefeld said in a statement. "When I say safety is our highest priority, I mean it. That sometimes means making tough, unpopular decisions, and this is one of those times. I fully recognize the hardship this will cause."

The Office of Personnel Management said the federal government will remain open with the option for telework or unscheduled leave.

Wednesdays are a busy day on the Hill when Congress is in session; there are dozens of House and Senate hearings scheduled for tomorrow. Last votes in the House, though, are expected to be over by 2:15 p.m., according to GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy's (R-Calif.) schedule.

The Metro closure, from the strike of midnight tonight through 5 a.m. on Thursday, could be extended if problems are found during the emergency inspections.

“The investigation into yesterday’s cable fire at McPherson Square is ongoing," Wiedefeld said. “As a preliminary matter, the conditions appear disturbingly similar to those in the L’Enfant incident of a year ago, and our focus is squarely on mitigating any risk of a fire elsewhere on the system.”

During the L'Enfant incident, a tunnel filled with smoke and brought a train to a halt. One passenger died and dozens of others were sickened by the smoke.