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Transit agencies prepare for Hurricane Isabel


As Hurricane Isabel heads their way today, eastern U.S. transit agencies are deciding whether to shut down or reduce service.

Virginia Railway Express cancelled all service, citing a concern that commuters can get to work in the morning, but might not be able to get home in the afternoon. Officials believe the high risk for flooding, fallen trees and windy conditions could result in multi-hour trips, and endanger passengers and employees.

Maryland Transit Administration also decided to cancel service after forecasts predicted the hurricane would reach land sooner than expected. The agency has not yet decided if it will resume service on Sept. 19.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) plans to suspend service after 11 a.m. in order to complete trips by 1 p.m., when 40 mph winds are expected to reach the area. The agency is concerned about risks to passengers and employees related to the high winds, according to a prepared statement. Once winds fall below 40 mph, track inspectors will need to ensure tracks are clear from debris and did not sustain any damage before service will resume.

WMATA employees have taken steps to help prevent flooding, such as distributing sand bags and monitoring drainage pumping stations.

Meanwhile, Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) plans to operate regular schedules Sept. 18 and 19, although the authority will have additional personnel stationed at key locations prepared to react to problems or emergencies that might arise. Work crews, supervisors and managers will remain on duty during the storm to maintain or restore service, set up detours and provide assistance to passengers. SEPTA Storm Center also will be operating from 5 a.m. Sept. 19 until the storm ends.

U.S. Department of Transportation also is helping transit agencies prepare for the storm. Federal Railroad Administration has been in contact with Amtrak, which has implemented several service changes because of the hurricane’s expected impact.

Federal Transit Administration has been in close contact with more than 50 eastern transit agencies to coordinate information, updates and strategies.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

More News from 9/18/2003