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Mechanical issues force MTA to suspend all light rail services: 'Safety of our riders is paramount'

Mechanical issues force MTA to suspend all light rail services
Mechanical issues force MTA to suspend all light rail services 03:42

BALTIMORE -- All light rail services will be indefinitely suspended, beginning on Friday, December 8, because of mechanical issues, Maryland Transit Authority officials said.

At an emergency press conference on Thursday, MTA officials said they need to make much-needed repairs to their cars. The suspension is going to inconvenience thousands of Marylanders.

MTA Administrator Holly Arnold said the decision to suspend service is based on two issues. High-voltage conduits were discovered to have been punctured after a fire in October, in which one rider was injured.

Light Rail Fire blurred by MDOT MTA Maryland on YouTube

Also, machinery that connects light rail cars, called the inter-car connector cable, has caused six smoke events between November 2021 and November 2023.

"The risk level for this particular issue, at that time, was identified to be a medium level which requires mitigation and the risk level was accessible to continue operation," Arnold said.

Mayor Brandon Scott said in a statement Friday that his office has been in touch with the Moore administration about the issue, and called a prolonged suspension "simply unacceptable."

Scott also said his administration has "been working to identify workaround solutions for residents who rely on Light Rail -- especially in Baltimore's underserved communities -- and ensure Light Rail Services resume in a timely manner." 

On Monday and Tuesday, an updated safety risk assessment was conducted. 

MTA officials say that out of caution, they felt it be necessary to shut down the light rail.

It's now forcing riders to find a new way to get around the city. 

"It connects me directly from here to downtown," said Baltimore resident Chris Caldwell.

There will be shuttle buses at all light rail stops starting Friday.

"We understand what significant impact this will have and we're going to work to mitigate those impacts where possible," Arnold said. "The safety of our riders is paramount and we must act with that in mind."

"I never really saw it as completely reliable, but to not have it at all is pretty terrible for a lot of people who rely on it every single day," Baltimore resident Haley Slocum said.

Officials say 53 light rail cars are impacted, and they range from 21 to 34 years old. Limited service will resume once they have eight cars that have been repaired and inspected.

MTA said there's no set timeline as to when service will be back.

"I use this as a means of me being able to support myself, survive, pay bills, things of that nature," Caldwell said. 

There will, however, be an express shuttle service for Sunday's Ravens game.

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