- The Washington Times - Tuesday, January 27, 2004

Sleet, rain, snow and ice-encased Metro train rails prevented government and other workers from getting to their jobs on time yesterday morning, but motorists had little problem on D.C. streets, which had been plowed and de-iced.

“We brought approximately 160,000 people to work this morning during the rush hour,” said James Gallagher, assistant general manager of Metro operations. He said the passenger load was about 75 percent of that seen on a typical 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. weekday.

Commuters had few problems driving on D.C. streets, which had been treated with de-icing chemicals and plowed in the past 24 hours by crews from the Departments of Public Works and Transportation, spokesman Bill Rice reported.He said most motorists seemed to obey warnings to drive slowly and not to follow vehicles too closely.

Mr. Rice said work crews, still on 12-hour shifts, are using 208 plows, trucks and other vehicles to clear streets near schools, in preparation of schools opening today.

Metro train trouble yesterday mostly affected the Orange Line at New Carrollton and Landover, where the tracks rise well above ground level. Metro officials said ice on the third rail acted like insulation, keeping 750 volts of electricity from powering the trains.

“Some passengers waited for over an hour,” said Metro spokeswoman Lisa Farbstein. “We called in shuttle buses to help take passengers to other stations.” As freezing weather continued yesterday, the federal government announced that it would release employees early, and some D.C. government offices and other employers followed suit, causing Metro concerns that passengers would have to wait longer for de-iced trains.Faced with the possibility that all 160,000 Metro riders would leave for home about the same time, Metro installed an early rush-hour service, which began 12:30 p.m. instead of the normal 4 p.m.

“We do not have the rail cars available to move everyone at once. People should stagger their trips home, just like they do on their way into the office,” Mr. Gallagher said, adding that if all commuters started home at the same time with the limited trains available, some commuters would have to wait up to three hours.

“Even on a sunny day, we couldn’t handle that many all at once,” Miss Farbsteinsaid. Despite passable main streets, some commuters chose to ride Metro.

“I just didn’t feel like driving,” said Elizabeth Hattley of Greenbelt, who rode the train to and from the Cardozo station “to do my work at church.”

“I usually drive to work,” said Kathy Corr of the Dupont Circle area of the District as she got off at the Landover station. “The Metro was just fine. But now, I’m having trouble getting a cab here.”

Only 54 percent of the Orange Line rail cars were available yesterday evening, owing to the ice and snow. Mr. Gallagher estimated that passengers would have to wait an average of 12 minutes between trains.

Ninety percent of the rail cars were working on the Green and Blue lines, 73 percent were ready on the Red Line and 71 percent for the Yellow Line. The wait between trains on those lines was expected to be six minutes.

Prince George’s County officials yesterday criticized Metro for not warning passengers about delays affecting Metro stations between Addison Road and Stadium Armory, and New Carrollton and Stadium Armory.

“People should not have to stand and wait for a train that will never come,” said county Chief Administrative Officer Jacqueline Brown.

Some passengers waited almost two hours for the Orange and Blue lines before being told that ice on the Anacostia River bridges had caused the delays, Mrs. Brown said.

She said “numerous” people called to complain about Metro. Many reported that they left the station and drove home or to work because they were not informed in advance about the delays.

“This is not acceptable,” Mrs. Brown said.

Shuttle buses eventually took passengers to the Stadium Armory station.

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