The entire Washington Metrorail system will shut down Wednesday for safety checks, complicating travel plans for commuters.

Metro officials announced Tuesday afternoon the subway system would close from midnight Tuesday night through 5 a.m. Thursday to allow for an inspection of 600 underground power cables.


"While the risk to the public is very low, I cannot rule out a potential life safety issue here, and that is why we must take this action immediately," Metro General Manager Paul Wiedefeld said. 

Wiedefeld acknowledged that the decision would be unpopular and cause major complications for travelers around the D.C. area.


After the announcement, the Office of Personnel Management said federal agencies would open on Wednesday but allow employees to telecommute or take unscheduled leave.

Metro's board of directors spoke Tuesday afternoon about the decision to close the rail system following a cable fire near the McPherson Square station that prompted delays Monday.

After officials finish inspecting the power cables, Metro officials said in a statement, "there may be a need for additional rail service outages."

“The investigation into yesterday’s cable fire at McPherson Square is ongoing," Wiedefeld said. 

“As a preliminary matter, the conditions appear disturbingly similar to those in the L’Enfant incident of a year ago, and our focus is squarely on mitigating any risk of a fire elsewhere on the system.”

Last year, one person died and dozens were sickened after a fire caused a tunnel and a stopped train to fill up with smoke.

The Metro system also shut down for two days in January amid a weekend blizzard that dumped more than a foot of snow on the city. 

Rep. Gerry ConnollyGerald (Gerry) Edward ConnollyBiden offers traditional address in eerie setting Overnight Defense: Top Pentagon nominee advances after Harris casts tie-breaker | Air Force general charged with sexual assault first to face court-martial | House passes bill to limit Saudi arms sales House passes bill limiting arms sales to Saudi Arabia over Khashoggi killing MORE (D-Va.) on Tuesday called on the Office of Personnel Management to allow for unscheduled leave or telework for federal employees amid the shutdown. 

Connolly said the decision to close down the Metro for a day "is a gut punch to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend on the system."

"This decision, while perhaps necessary, will cause significant inconvenience and will disrupt the functioning of the federal government in our nation’s capital," he said in a statement.

—Updated at 6:16 p.m.