Cummings calls on MTA to explain ‘what specifically prompted’ Baltimore Metro shutdown

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Rep. Elijah Cummings. Image via campaign website.

Rep. Elijah Cummings is applying pressure to the Maryland Transit Administration, which operates the Baltimore Metro system that’s been shut down since Feb. 9 and will remain so until at least March 11.

In a letter sent to MTA Administrator Kevin Quinn today, Cummings asked for “additional information regarding what specifically prompted the MTA to shut down the Metro subway for emergency repairs.”

The 12-term Baltimore-native congressman harped on what the agency has already made public knowledge: that it knew as early as November 2016 that 17 of the system’s rail sections had “gauge face angle” levels—a measure of wear on the rails—that exceeded the state’s standard for what is safe, which warranted a need for emergency repairs, according to an inspection report.

The MTA has said it opted to shut the system down on Feb. 11 after a more recent inspection.

“If in fact that gauge face angles on those segments of tracked exceeded 26 degrees in November [2016]—and yet service continued on those segments—what specific changes in conditions other than gauge face angles were found in the most recent inspection that necessitated an emergency shutdown of the service?” Cummings posed.

Quinn and other MTA officials briefed Cummings’ staff about the shutdown on Wednesday, according to the letter. The agency said it is seeking an independent peer review of the subway system’s maintenance practices.

But Cummings said he thinks MTA can supply the requested information—including copies of independent inspection reports, communications about track problems, correspondence with federal overseers about rail wear issues and documents indicating the locations of the identified “30,000 feet of deteriorated track” on the subway system—before the peer review is complete.

He asked Quinn to send him those documents by March 16.

Baltimore Fishbowl has reached out to the MTA for comment on Cummings’ request.

The agency has come under fire over the shutdown, with gubernatorial candidate and local attorney Jim Shea even calling the crisis worthy of Maryland Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn’s resignation.

An estimated 40,000 people ride the one-line subway system on weekdays. The state has funded bus bridges to try to keep them going on their commutes. Officials have also said another emergency shutdown is forthcoming this summer.

Ethan McLeod
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