The Office of Personnel Management said that federal offices will remain open on March 16, but allowed for federal employees to telework after the city's transit authority announced that it would shut down the Metro system for more than 24 hours.
"Employees have the option for unscheduled leave or unscheduled telework," said Samuel Schumach, OPM's press secretary, in a statement. "To help alleviate the transportation difficulties that may be associated with the temporary MetroRail closure, OPM is encouraging all agencies to allow their employees to take full advantage of this 'change of status' and permit their employees to telework, take leave, or use their AWS Day off."
The Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which controls the city's subway system, announced on March 15 that it was closing the network for at least a day while checks the safety of electric cables.
The closure was the result of a tunnel fire on March 14 that resulted in massive delays on three lines throughout the system.
Rep. Gerry Connolly, D-Va., called on OPM and other agencies to allow workers to telework as a result of the closure, in a statement.
"Today's decision by General Manager Wiedefield to shut down the Metrorail system for 24 hours is a gut punch to the hundreds of thousands of commuters who depend on the system," he said.
"This decision, while perhaps necessary, will cause significant inconvenience and will disrupt the functioning of the federal government in our nation's capital. OPM must recognize that challenge and should, at a minimum, grant unscheduled leave or telework for federal employees tomorrow. While I am extremely frustrated with this news, safety must be our number one priority. This dramatic action highlights the need for long-term safety and reliability improvements throughout the system."
Rep. Barbara Comstock also took issue with the closure, calling on OPM to allow for teleworking in a statement released by her office.
"My constituents rely on MetroRail for safe travel every single day. I appreciate that General Manager Paul Wiedefeld's actions, while drastic, are being taken first and foremost to protect MetroRail riders' safety. At the same time, this unprecedented action highlights the fundamental cultural change that needs to take place at Metro. Instead of Metro riders being constantly inconvenienced and put in danger, Metro management throughout the entire system needs to be shaken to its core and be rid of its culture of incompetence. New accountability measures must be put in place."