Metro resumes service after Sandy

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Photo - Riders wait for the first train to pass through the Eastern Market station after Metro resumed service Tuesday afternoon. (Kytja Weir/Examiner)
Riders wait for the first train to pass through the Eastern Market station after Metro resumed service Tuesday afternoon. (Kytja Weir/Examiner)
Local,Transportation,Kytja Weir

Metro reopened its rail and bus system Tuesday afternoon on a limited schedule in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, ending the longest weather-related rail closure in the system's 37-year history.

The transit agency expects to offer regular service Wednesday, with normal rush hour rail service starting at 5 a.m., plus Metrobus and MetroAccess trips.

Metro, like the Washington region, suffered just a glancing blow from Sandy, which wreaked "unprecedented devastation" on transit systems in New York and New Jersey.

(See a photo gallery of storm images)

"There was no significant damage. We didn't have any downed branches on the tracks. We didn't have any flooding issues and all power problems were limited to localized issues," Metro spokesman Dan Stessel said.

Some water leaked into a couple of elevators and escalators, he said, while a handful of bus routes were detoured Tuesday due to downed trees, power lines or malfunctioning traffic lights. Some nearby construction fencing blew onto the tracks at NoMa-Gallaudet University but didn't cause any damage, he said.

(Watch storm videos from the D.C. region and the latest videos from around the country)

"Without question, the damage from Sandy was less significant for us than the derecho," Stessel said.

But being closed both Monday and for the first half of Tuesday meant that Metrorail was shuttered for 28 hours of its usual service time, compared with 16 hours for Hurricane Isabel in 2003.

Metro stood by its decision to close. "Given the potential for damage and the possibilities for injuries to customers and employees, we made a prudent decision," Stessel said.

At the Eastern Market station, a crowd of six riders gathered at the entrance gate before a station manager opened up at 1:47 p.m. in advance of the 2 p.m. reopening. There were no cheers, just a fast shuffle inside to wait for the first train.

"I wish they could have started it up earlier," said Carlene Ward, as she waited for the trains to resume so she could get to her housekeeping job at the Washington Convention Center. At the very least, she wished Metro had started earlier in the underground sections, even if they had to wait on the above-ground sections, as they do with snow storms.

Metro could not start earlier because workers needed to be notified, commute to their jobs and reach the end-of-the-line stations where the trains are stored after the tracks and bus routes were inspected, Stessel said.

The agency charged peak fares during the normal evening rush period, even though trains ran on a more staggered Sunday schedule. The much-harder-hit New York City system started bus service Tuesday afternoon on a limited schedule without charging any fares.

Stessel said Metro did not have time to change the fare tables, which requires computer re-programming.

Some riders grumbled about Metro charging more for less service.

"It seems like they shouldn't be, but complaining isn't going to do any good," said Peter Smith as he waited for the station to open so he could go to work.

But Ward didn't mind after having to miss work Monday because of Metro. "As long as I can get to work and back home tonight," she said.

kweir@washingtonexaminer.com

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