In Extreme Weather, Transit Keeps People Moving
July 10, 2019
When roads are swamped, trains can keep running
by Sean Jeans-Gail
Washington, D.C. – Maryland – Virginia (DMV) residents experienced a rough post-July 4th holiday commute on Monday, with torrential rains causing flash flooding, road closures, and snarled commutes.
While the DMV region is used to sudden tropical storms in summer months, the July 8th storm broke a 148-year-old record, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Andrew Snyder, dropping 3.3 inches of rainfall in a single hour.
That spelled trouble for motorists.
ICYMI - Belfast Rd off MacArthur Blvd, Woodrock/Potomac, road washed away, 1 of several roadways damaged pic.twitter.com/YdTffjjXAM— Pete Piringer (@mcfrsPIO) July 8, 2019
D.C.’s Homeland Security Emergency Management Agency (HSEMA) issued a warning to Washington, D.C. drivers, saying that due to today’s severe weather, the Bowser Administration advises road closures along several key corridors, to remain in effect during the duration of the afternoon rush hour.
Even D.C. Metro was affected, with the flooding leading to leaks springing in tunnels and flooded stairwells. But WMATA’s operators were able to keep trains running on a delayed schedule.
Now we are single tracking past the flood. pic.twitter.com/VjaaZJt01a— Niina H. Farah (@niina_h_farah) July 8, 2019
Scientists warned that Monday’s deluge is a harbringer of troubles to come.
This is going to get worse in many areas of the country and almost none of our infrastructure, which lasts for many decades, has been designed to perform well under climate change https://t.co/5FbsvF6NHd— Costa Samaras (@CostaSamaras) July 8, 2019
“We’re still approaching this 21st-century problem with 20th-century infrastructure, and it’s completely inadequate,” said Constantine Samaras, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at Carnegie Mellon University, told the New York Times. “And it’s only going to get worse.”
As policymakers think about how to adapt infrastructure to extreme weather patterns, it’s important for us to emphasize the point that investing in rail and transit creates elevated levels of resiliency in our transportation system. Rail can provide an important safety valve—whether it’s rural Montanans in a winter storm or Mid-Atlantic commuters trying to get to work in a deluge.
"The National Association of Railroad Passengers has done yeoman work over the years and in fact if it weren’t for NARP, I'd be surprised if Amtrak were still in possession of as a large a network as they have. So they've done good work, they're very good on the factual case."
Robert Gallamore, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University and former Federal Railroad Administration official, Director of Transportation Center at Northwestern University
November 17, 2005, on The Leonard Lopate Show (with guest host Chris Bannon), WNYC New York.