Baltimore’s entire Metro SubwayLink system will remain closed for a month, the Maryland Transit Administration said Sunday, after safety inspections showed sections of track needed emergency repairs that couldn’t wait until this summer.
Gov. Larry Hogan (R) has devoted $2.2 million in emergency funding to run free coach buses for passengers along the subway’s route, in addition to the normal MTA bus routes, the MTA said Sunday.
The MTA shut down the system Friday for a safety evaluation after discovering an urgent need for repairs on sections of the aboveground, northwest leg of the system between the Owings Mills and West Cold Spring stations. Sunday’s decision expanded the closure to the entire system.
“While I understand the inconvenience, safety will always be our top priority,” MTA chief executive Kevin Quinn said in a phone interview Sunday. “We don’t take any risks with our riders.”
The track needed to be replaced sooner than the scheduled replacement this summer, Quinn said.
The free shuttle buses, or “bus bridge” as the MTA calls it, will begin at 5 a.m. Monday and run until midnight on weekdays, and from 6 a.m. until midnight on weekends.
An “express bus bridge” will make stops at Owings Mills, Milford Mill, Mondawmin, State Center, Charles Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital during weekday peak hours, from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m., and from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m.
Quinn declined to specifically describe the problems on the deteriorating tracks, but said they were not rusted or cracked. He referred to them generally as having undergone “normal wear and tear.” It’s not clear how much the repairs will cost.
“The part that’s above ground, on the elevated sections, it’s exposed completely to the elements, and it has been for 36 years,” Quinn said. “There’s 36 years of wear and tear on it.”
The single-line, 15.5-mile, heavy rail system has 14 stations and a ridership of more than 40,000 on a typical weekday. The aboveground section runs from Owings Mills to Mondawmin, then goes underground between Mondawmin and Johns Hopkins Hospital.
“We spent Friday and Saturday doing a thorough inspection of the tunnel section because we wanted to do a check of the entire system,” Quinn said. “There were additional sections that have some wear and tear on them as well. We’re going to be replacing them.”
Quinn told The Sun on Friday that there are no signs that past neglect caused the current problems.
The system closed for 23 days between Milford Mill and Mondawmin stations for “critical maintenance work” in the summer of 2016. During that time, many riders complained about being relegated to yellow school buses.
That’s one complaint the MTA doesn’t expect to hear this time around. The agency has used the emergency funds allocated by the governor to contract coach buses from National Express Coaches and Hanover-based Dillon’s Bus Service, Quinn said.
“They’ll find it’s still a nice ride downtown,” Quinn said.
A partial reopening could come earlier than March 11, as sections of track are repaired, the MTA said.
Mayor Catherine Pugh (D) thanked the governor for funding the buses in a statement in the MTA release.
“It is important that we do everything possible to mitigate the inconvenience of prolonged disruption of the Metro SubwayLink service,” Pugh said.