BALTIMORE — The Maryland Transit Administration is halting service on its light rail line in Baltimore because of mechanical issues requiring immediate repairs, officials said at a Thursday press conference. The service suspension is effective today (Friday, Dec. 8) and will be in effect indefinitely.
The Baltimore Sun reports that MTA Administrator Holly Arnold said the agency would provide free shuttle buses along the light rail route for the duration of the shutdown. The line serves about 10,000 passengers per day.
Arnold said she could not provide a timeline for the return of service, but limited service will begin when eight cars of the 53-car fleet are available and full service will return when 19 railcars have been repaired. Connecting cables between cars have led to three “smoke events” in the past four months, injuring a rider and a police officer.
“We discovered that high-voltage conduits on our vehicles have been punctured” following an Oct. 21 fire, Arnold said. “We had initially anticipated that would just be the one car from the inspections we’ve been doing. We did some visual inspections and have determined over that weekend it is a more systemic issue.”
The railcars were built by European manufacturer ABB in 1991-92 or Maryland aerospace firm AAI Corp. in 1997. Alstom has been overhauling the vehicles under a contract awarded in 2013.
“This is a critical transit service, and this is not a decision that we’ve taken lightly,” Arnold said, according to the Baltimore Banner. “We understand what a significant impact this will have, and we’re going to work to mitigate those impacts where possible. The safety of our riders is paramount and we must act with that in mind.” About 30 buses will be pulled from their regular routes to privde the shuttle service for light rail riders
The 30-mile, 32-station north-south light rail line runs from Hunt Valley, Md., in the north to BWI Airport and Glen Burnie in the south.