Owings Mills Electrical Fire Highlights Persistent Issues Within Baltimore Metro System


A firefighter stands amid the partially destroyed Owings Mills Metro Station after extinguishing an electrical fire on July 7. (Credit: Baltimore County Fire Department/ Facebook)

OWINGS MILLS - Service resumed on Wednesday in Baltimore's Metro SubwayLink system following an electrical fire last week in Owings Mills that caused a temporary system-wide halt in operations.

As of Thursday morning, a single-track service operates between five out of the 14 stations, with the trains moving in both directions on a single rail line.

According to The Maryland Transit Administration (MTA), the agency recently completed a comprehensive examination of the heavy rail system. Despite the recent review, MTA clarified that it might take several more weeks to complete the investigation into the cause of the July 7 electrical fire.

In a statement on Tuesday, MTA thanked riders for their patience while it carried out the full inspection and completed the necessary repairs on the tracks. The temporary closure created difficulties and delays for commuters relying on the rapid transit system, which serves both underground and above-ground routes connecting John Hopkins Hospital in the east of downtown to Owings Mills in the northwest, within Baltimore County.

The recent incident underscores the continuing issues faced by the 15.4-mile rail line, which has been struggling to regain its pre-pandemic ridership. A quick glimpse at the MTA's twitter account reveals frightening number of delays and closures every day. 

According to data from the Federal Transit Administration, the Baltimore Metro experienced nearly 4000 significant mechanical failures in 2021, and was the lowest ranked system in the country that year.

An MTA report from July 2022 estimated that it would take $5.1 billion to bring the whole transit system to a state of good repair over the next ten years, which includes $1.8 billion in deferred maintenance costs. 

In July 2017, MTA announced a $400.5 million investment to replace the Metro's rail car fleet with 78 new, state-of-the-art cars. O'Malley stated that the current fleet, in operation since 1983, has reached the end of its lifespan.

According to the Baltimore Regional Transportation Board's latest improvement plan, six out of the 78 new rail cars are expected to be in service by the end of 2024, with the remaining cars expected to start running by the end of 2026.

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