Subway Shut Down is the Tip of the Iceberg | WYPR

Subway Shut Down is the Tip of the Iceberg

Feb 16, 2018

David McClure, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union, cited baby kangaroo-sized rats as just one of the many health and safety issues inside the Baltimore subway system.
Credit Dominique Maria Bonessi

The month-long shut down of Baltimore’s subway system came after inspections showed a need for emergency track replacements, but rail replacement might just be the tip of the iceberg.

David McClure, president of the Amalgamated Transit Union local that represents MTA workers, told Baltimore’s General Assembly delegation Friday the subway system is in need of a complete overhaul. And has been for some time.

“Those rails are really messed up. I mean some of those tracks are actually broken," said McClure.

McClure spoke of kangaroo-sized rats in the tunnels, exposed electrical wires, and blocked emergency exits.

"If there is a fire or smoke that happens a strip is supposed to light up," McClure said. "Well if you follow that strip to get out, you're going to come to a trap door that's chained up."

But state Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn begged to differ.

“I’m afraid that the stories you have heard greatly exaggerate conditions," he said.

Rahn told the delegation the department has always responded to worker concerns quickly. 

Delegate Cheryl Glenn, whose East Baltimore District stretches along both sides of Bel Air Road, asked the delegation to consider more MTA funding.

“We might look at the option of exploring how we impact the budget to ensure that the MTA does what is needed for the safety of not only their employees, but of their riders," said Glenn.

Rahn says another shutdown of the subway system is expected in August to replace more rails.