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Rail News: Rail Industry Trends

East Coast railroads, transit agencies gear up for blizzard


By Daniel Niepow, Associate Editor

With winter storm Jonas expected to pummel the East Coast this weekend, several railroads and transit agencies have announced preparation plans and service modifications.

The announcements come as at least four states have declared states of emergency in light of the potentially crippling snowfall.

The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA), for example, will suspend all rail service starting at 11 p.m. today. The agency's rail operations will remain offline until Sunday, WMATA officials said in a press release.

Photo: Virginia Railway Express

In the meantime, WMATA will protect hundreds of rail cars by storing them in tunnels during the storm, they added.

As much as 30 inches of snow could fall on Washington, D.C., which is slated to be the "bulls-eye" of the blizzard, The Washington Post reported.

"This is not a storm that anyone should take lightly, and I would urge all residents to plan to get to a safe place before the storm arrives Friday afternoon," said WMATA General Manager and Chief Executive Officer Paul Wiedefeld. "The actions we are taking today are all in the interest of our customers' and employees' safety, and will help us return to service once the storm passes and the snow is cleared."

Meanwhile, the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) is running only "S" trains today. The agency is monitoring the weather with its host railroads, the National Weather Service and the Virginia Department of Transportation, VRE officials said in a weather advisory update.

While most of Amtrak's Northeast Corridor service will operate as scheduled today, several routes will be cancelled or modified tomorrow and on Sunday.

MTA New York City Transit (NYCT) also is preparing for potential snowfall. The agency will activate the incident command center in its subway system and place personnel to communicate with outlying local storm fighting centers. Additionally, NYCT will use a tool for tracking field reports on snow removal and station conditions, as well as a database of essential resources such as salt, sand, and generators to enable better collaboration and response time.

Although NYCT staff will be ready to drop salt and clear platforms and stairs of snow, the agency urged customers to "use extreme caution while navigation the system," agency officials said.

Furthermore, NYCT has added more third rail heaters and snow melting equipment at critical points throughout its system, agency officials said. Currently, the agency has more than 1,000 remote-controlled third-rail heaters, as well as 494 manual ones.

On the freight side, Norfolk Southern Railway yesterday released a service alert informing customers that there could be delays of 24 to 48 hours on traffic moving through the Southeast, Mid-Atlantic and Northeast regions.

Contact Progressive Railroading editorial staff.

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