WASHINGTON — Limited Blue and Orange line service resumed downtown Thursday afternoon after two of three cars were set back onto the tracks following an early morning derailment, Metro announced.
As of late Thursday, Blue and Orange line trains were single-tracking between McPherson Square and Federal Center SW stations. A Metro spokeswoman told WTOP single-tracking could continue Friday morning.
Stations at Smithsonian and Federal Triangle reopened around 8:30 p.m.
“We think single-tracking is one step toward improvement. And we’re working feverishly in a safe manner to try to get the entire system back before tomorrow morning,” says Metro’s acting general manager Jack Requa. “We know this is a great inconvenience for our passengers. We’re working as fast as we can.”
Metro maintenance crews were continuing to work Thursday evening to move the third derailed car back onto the tracks.
An empty Metro train derailed outside the Smithsonian Station as the train was preparing to go into service as a Blue Line train just before 5 a.m. The subsequent closure of several downtown stations and the service suspension resulted in massive delays for riders.
The three cars were resting a foot or so off the track, but had not tumbled onto their sides. Officials don’t know whether the cars were damaged, says Requa.
“Until we get the cars out of there, we really won’t know,” he says.
Metro says three cars left the track as the train was turning around between Smithsonian and Federal Triangle along a switch that moves to a different track. The three cars were among the oldest models in the fleet that are set to be replaced during the next few years.
A Metro spokeswoman said late Thursday that once the last rail car was moved off the track, crews would assess any damage to the track. That will determine the impact on Friday morning’s commute, and whether or not single-tracking will continue.
Requa says that there was no damage to the tunnels or any other infrastructure. But there was still no word of a possible cause of the derailment.
“I don’t know about speed … We know that there was no work going on in that location,” Requa says.
No one was injured and only the train operator was on board at the time.
Requa acknowledged that the derailment and resulting delays and service suspensions do not help the transit system’s image, which has taken a beating from passengers and politicians alike since the January smoke event that killed one woman and sent dozens of people to the hospital. The system has yet to hire a new general manager since Richard Sarles announced his retirement last September and is still working to address changes required in the wake of a 2009 derailment along the Red Line that killed nine people.
What riders can expect
As Blue and Orange line trains will single-track between McPherson Square and Federal Center SW, riders should expect trains to run less frequently than typical rush hour service and may encounter delays and crowded trains, Metro warns.
Meanwhile, Silver Line service continues to be restricted and trains will run only between Wiehle-Reston and East Falls Church Thursday afternoon.
Blue and Orange line riders at Metro Center and L’Enfant Plaza stations will board on the eastbound track (for New Carrollton/Largo).
Tips for Virginia riders:
- Consider traveling on the Yellow Line. Trains depart from Gallery Place, Archives or L’Enfant Plaza stations.
- Tips to switch from the Red Line to the Blue and Orange lines: Riders can transfer for free by using Farragut Crossing. Riders who exit Farragut North can cross the plaza and walk one block to Farragut West.
- Bus Service: Metrobus or the Circulator bus can provide alternatives for riders. The 38B runs from Downtown D.C. to Orange Line stations in Virginia, for example. Use the “trip planner” at wmata.com for more options.
Many Metro riders were frustrated by the delays Thursday.
“Normally I take the Orange Line but [Thursday] I decided to take a cab,” said Jill Talley from Vienna, Virginia.
Jaris McMillian of Alexandria, Virginia, has a realistic outlook when it comes to the public transit system and says Metro is great — when it works.
“I like riding metro, I have no problem. It’s to be expected, it’s public transportation,” McMIllian said.
Madison Kaemerer of Reston, Virginia, says Thursday’s Metro problems seemed rather familiar.
“The past two weeks I’ve been on the Metro almost every single day a train has broken down. I should just stop using it, I guess.” Kaemerersaid.
Kaemerer says she plans to drive to work on Friday.
WTOP’S Ari Ashe, Dennis Foley and Nick Iannelli contributed to this report.