Official: Entire Washington D.C. subway system to shut down for 29 hours for inspections

A subway train arrives at the L'Enfant Metro Station, which is part of the public mass transit network for Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

The entire Washington, D.C., subway system will shut down for at least 29 hours to inspect electrical components on the tracks, an official briefed on the decision told The Associated Press on Tuesday, posing a potentially disastrous commute for hundreds of thousands of workers in the federal government and private sector alike.

The official spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the official was not authorized to release the information ahead of a planned news conference at 4:30 p.m.

The Metro subway system will shut down at midnight Tuesday and remain closed until at least 5 a.m. Thursday, which is the regularly scheduled opening time, the official said.

A fire on the tracks led to major delays throughout the system on Monday. The fire was caused by the same kind of electrical component that malfunctioned last year and caused a train to fill with smoke inside a downtown Washington tunnel, killing one passenger and sickening dozens. Those components will be inspected throughout the system, the official said.

Metro is the nation's second-busiest transit network, serving more than 700,000 riders daily, and a vital link for federal workers and other commuters to Washington from Maryland and Virginia.

Rep. Gerry Connolly, a Virginia Democrat, called on the U.S. Office of Personnel Management to allow federal workers to take unscheduled leave or telework on Wednesday, calling the decision to shut down "a gut punch to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend on the system."

"While I am extremely frustrated with this news, safety must be our No. 1 priority," Connolly said in a statement. "This dramatic action highlights the need for long-term safety and reliability improvements throughout the system."
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