WASHINGTON - It is back to business as hundreds of thousands of people poured into Metro stations across the D.C. region after safety concerns forced an unprecedented shutdown for 29 hours.
Doors to all 91 stations reopened at 5 a.m. Thursday and the transit system is said to be running on a normal schedule.
Twenty-six badly frayed electrical connections were found during inspections of the massive safety check. The decision to halt rail service for an entire day was gutsy and risky, but Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said it would have been even riskier to allow service to continue knowing the severity of problem.
Sitting down with FOX 5 News on Thursday, Wiedefeld updated us on where they stood on their repair work and how he made the bold decision to shut the system down.
He told us the moment came deep inside the tunnels of the McPherson Square station Monday morning when he laid his own eyes on those frayed electrical cables and realized at that moment that something needed to be done that had never been done before.
"It was a combination of that,” he said. “It was physically when I went out there when I first got the report. Of course, my antennas went way up when I get out there and I'm starting to learn that there are some similarities to what we experienced 14 months ago. I started saying, ‘Give me the information on X,Y, and Z, and that information I was not comfortable with and it led me to where I got to.”
Where he got to was an unprecedented safety shutdown of Metro on Wednesday.
Wiedefeld said all of the 26 damaged electrical cables have now been replaced. He is working on a plan to replace all 600 cables in the future.
Moving forward, he said more rigorous and regular inspections will now be the standard for Metro, and that had not been the case despite recommendations by federal safety oversight officials.
Wiedefeld said he has heard a lot from his passengers. People were inconvenienced, but overall, he said there has been positive feedback because passengers’ safety needs to be the priority.
He also described his decision-making style by saying that he does not like to wait around. When something needs to be done, such as closing Metro down for the blizzard, Wiedefeld said he wants to move quickly as possible, even if that means shutting down the transit system on quick notice.
“To be frank, I wish I didn't have to make those decisions,” he said. “I wish the blizzard hadn't come. I wish that we didn’t have what occurred 48 hours ago. But when they do come to me, I am going to deal with them. I’m going to make a decision, we are going to go, and we are going to do it based on the safety of the customers and our employees and that’s how we are going to make these decisions.
"The other message I'm getting from the vast majority of the people is – he did the right thing because I want to be safe, I want to come home at night, so I think they appreciate that and they understand that we have to start to manage this thing in a certain way.”
When we asked the general manager how he would like passengers to think about safety on Metro, he said to think about an elevator. When you get on an elevator, you don't worry about the safety most times. You assume that the person whose job it is to make sure it's safe is doing their job.
Right now, Wiedefeld said too many passengers have too many real concerns about safety on Metro and it is their job to ease those concerns.