Metro: Power cable flaws not behind Saturday smoke incident

WASHINGTON — Metro says a smoke and fire incident that occurred on the Red Line Saturday was not caused by a defect in the problematic power cables, which have been the source of complications for the transit agency.

On Saturday, an outbound eight-car Red Line train nearing the Friendship Heights station was forced to reverse direction toward Tenleytown when smoke entered the tunnel. No one was hurt.

A preliminary investigation Metro released Monday evening found a foreign object — likely a metal part of a railcar — caused the smoke incident. Investigators say the object made contact with the electrified third rail and may have caused a loud noise, flash and smoke.

Metro says investigators have eliminated power cables as a contributing factor to Saturday’s incident. Last month, power cable flaws were behind the fire outside of McPherson Square Station. The March 14 fire led to the unprecedented daylong shutdown of the Metro system so Metro staff could inspect all 600 underground cables, connections and their insulating boots.

The McPherson Square event happened when the power cables were not equipped with insulating boots that are designed to prevent moisture and debris from causing corrosion that can lead to fires.

Power cables have been linked to the smoke incident near L’Enfant Plaza in January 2015 that led to one woman’s death.

Other service and equipment failures have plagued Metro over the past year, including a derailment in August that caused major delays, and a transformer fire in September at Stadium-Armory.

On Monday, Metro Board Chairman and D.C. Councilman Jack Evans said Metro has serious problems and warns that similar smoke incidents could happen again.

“If we do nothing, if we don’t address this, then it will continue to have problems. The system is wearing out. As it wears out, we have more of these incidents,” Evans said.

Metro says its inspection of the cars and power systems involved in Saturday’s smoke incident is complete.

Metro and the Federal Transit Administration continue to investigate its cause.

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