Residents in Washington, D.C., were reeling Tuesday afternoon from the news that the region’s entire Metrorail system will close for at least 24 straight hours starting at midnight tonight in order to perform a safety check of hundreds of electric cables. The decision, made by the transit agency’s board of directors and newly minted General Manager Paul Wiedefeld, came after an electrical fire broke out in a tunnel near the McPherson Square station Monday morning, which led to a major service disruption. It also comes in the context of a fatal smoke incident caused by a similar electrical failure inside one of the system’s tunnels a little over a year ago.
Wiedefeld has only been on the job for a few months, and so far he’s at least saying the right things: that his task in restoring the region’s faith in their troubled transit agency must involve dealing with the "hard truths" about WMATA’s shortcomings head on. His decision to initiate a sudden and complete shutdown amid serious safety concerns certainly suggests a willingness to follow through on that pledge.