NBC 4 New York
Work on the damaged Metro-North tracks in Connecticut should be done sooner than expected. It's welcome news to thousands of commuters. Andrew Siff reports.
Metro-North service on the New Haven line is expected to return to normal by Wednesday morning, Gov. Dannel Malloy said during a news conference Monday afternoon.
"While this is definitely great news, residents still need to bear in mind that the commute Tuesday will remain a challenge," Malloy said.
The news comes as Connecticut commuters suffered slow trips back home Monday following last week's train collision that injured 72 people and disrupted rail service into New York City.
The Metro-North's contingency plan involving a fleet of 120 buses to help rail commuters make their way around the scene of the accident seemed to work well, though it was not perfect.
It took Gary Maddin of Milford an hour to make what is normally a 20 minute drive from his home to the Bridgeport train station Monday morning. From there, he planned to board a shuttle bus to Stamford where he could catch a train to Grand Central Station in New York.
"It's a lot," he said. "It's a nightmare just to get into the city today."
Anais Soto of Waterbury said she had to leave her home three hours earlier to make it to work on time. Sandra Guzman of Bridgeport wound up getting in an hour later.
Officials say Friday's collision affects about 30,000 people who normally use the train.
Some commuters used a jury-rigged alternative to the trains: A shuttle train ran between New Haven and Bridgeport, where a bus connection to Stamford circumvented the accident scene, and finally customers boarded a train for New York. That system was to continue Tuesday.
Many decided to drive instead. State transportation officials said traffic on Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway was at a crawl Monday morning, with the trip between Bridgeport and Stamford estimated at about an hour during the height of the rush hour. The trip normally takes about 25 minutes.
"It was bad but not the nightmare that a lot of people thought it would be," said Judd Everhart, a DOT spokesman. "Those two highways are pretty congested on a regular day."
Crews will spend days rebuilding 2,000 feet of track, overhead wires and signals, forcing thousands more people to drive to work on highways that even in normal times can be bumper-to-bumper. And a rainy weather forecast could make driving a bit more treacherous.
"Residents should plan for a week's worth of disruptions," Gov. Dannel Malloy said Sunday at a news conference in Hartford.
Several days of around-the-clock work will be required, including inspections and testing of the newly rebuilt system, Metro-North President Howard Permut said. The damaged rail cars were removed from the tracks on Sunday, the first step toward making the repairs.
Amtrak service between New York and New Haven was also suspended and there was no estimate on service restoration. Limited service was available between New Haven and Boston.
Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said he's asked officials in numerous towns to suspend parking rules to accommodate what could be tens of thousands of motorists driving to unaffected train stations. Twelve stations are affected by the shutdown.
About 700 people were on board the trains Friday evening when one heading east from Grand Central Terminal to New Haven derailed just outside Bridgeport. It was hit by a train heading west from New Haven. Nine remained hospitalized on Sunday, with one critical.
Investigators are looking at a broken section of rail to see if it is connected to the derailment and collision. Officials said it wasn't clear if the rail was broken in the crash or earlier.
NTSB investigators arrived Saturday and are expected to be on site for seven to 10 days. They will look at the brakes and performance of the trains, the condition of the tracks, crew performance and train signal information, among other things.