Cracked rail on Red Line under investigation

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Local,Transportation,Liz Essley,Metro,Metro and Traffic

Metro officials are investigating a cracked rail on Metro's Red Line, which forced trains to share a single track for nearly two hours during Wednesday's morning rush and led to lengthy delays for riders.

Metro officials said they are examining the cause of the crack on the third, electrified rail on the outbound track between the NoMa-Gallaudet and Rhode Island Ave-Brentwood stations and whether it was related to last weekend's track work in the area.

Officials noticed the crack shortly after 6 a.m., when a train lost several of its "collector shoes" -- devices that connect trains to the third rail and are designed to break off if something is wrong with a track, Metro officials said.

Cracked rails are normally caused by sudden shifts in temperature -- often on extremely hot or cold days -- when metal expands or contracts, Metro spokesman Dan Stessel has said in the past. But Wednesday was a mild spring day, with a temperature of 50 degrees about 6 a.m., according to the National Weather Service.

Riders took notice.

"I'm usually a [Metro] apologist, but how is there a cracked rail in a section of the system that was shut down all weekend for repairs?" one rider tweeted using the handle @karlhorberg.

"Metro was such a disaster today, almost makes me wish I had a car. There is no way [Metro] even remotely has their [act] together," rider Nikolai Joseph tweeted using the handle @nikopotomous.

Metro board member Muriel Bowser, who is running for D.C. mayor, sent out an unusual press release criticizing Metro for the delays.

"The breakdown on the Red Line this morning undoubtedly caused frustration and inconvenience for our commuters on their way to work," Bowser said. "Metro has to do a better job maintaining and improving our system, and meeting the expectations of its customers."

It was the third consecutive bad day for Metro. A train with a brake problem at Metro Center caused more delays for Red Line riders after the cracked rail Wednesday. Single-tracking on the Yellow and Green lines snarled riders Tuesday morning, as well as a disabled train on the Orange and Blue lines and a switch problem on the Red Line on Monday morning.

lessley@washingtonexaminer.com

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