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Commutes stall as New Haven line problem lingers

By Izaskun E. Larraņeta

Publication: theday.com

Published September 26. 2013 9:00AM   Updated September 26. 2013 11:57PM
Malloy stops I-95 construction to ease traffic; Amtrak halts some Acela service

New London — Plans were rearranged, routes were recalculated and riders braced for delays as an electrical equipment failure Wednesday that knocked out power to the New Haven line continued to impact rail travel Thursday.

Frank McDonald of Branford said he travels daily to New York City, where he works as a financial consultant. He usually takes the Metro-North from New Haven's Union Station, but Thursday was different.

He told his bosses that he would be late and instead opted to drive to Old Saybrook and take the 8:04 a.m. Amtrak Northeast Regional.

"I know my day is going to be longer, but I saw the news this morning and I knew New Haven was going to be just a mess," he said. "This way I know I'm going to have a seat."

According to Metro-North, 125,000 people travel on the New Haven line every day.

Amtrak announced Thursday afternoon that Acela Express service would not operate between New York and Boston through Sunday. Amtrak will continue to provide Northeast Regional service, operating under diesel power through the affected area.

Additional cars have been added to Northeast Regional trains to add capacity to accommodate former Acela Express passengers traveling between New York and Boston, Amtrak said. Passengers should expect delays of up to 90 minutes.

"The Acela can travel up to 150 miles per hour in some areas while the Northeast Regional can only travel upwards of 120 miles per hour in certain sections," said Steve Kulm, an Amtrak spokesman. "So there are going to be delays and we are just waiting for word on when the power is going to be restored so we can run the Acela again."

Acela Express and Northeast Regional trains will operate normally between New York and Washington.

The electrical problem forced Metro-North to suspend commuter rail service between Stamford and New York City Wednesday and Thursday. The company announced that it could accommodate only about 33 percent of regular ridership on the New Haven line.

The broken circuit could take two to three weeks to repair, the New York-based utility Consolidated Edison said.

At Union Station in New London, Shore Line East was operating on schedule Thursday morning.

The travel delays in the New York City area, however, had trickled down to those riders who were traveling in the opposite direction. The 5:34 a.m. Amtrak to Boston didn't arrive until 7:01 a.m.

Pfizer employees Trudi Morneau of New London and Kathy Ryan of Uncasville travel to Boston about three times a week. Ryan said she checked her Amtrak app and it told her that the Boston-bound train would arrive at 6 a.m.

"It's still not here," she said.

Morneau added, "It's going to make for a long day."

Both women said they would get some work done on their laptops.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy ordered the DOT to halt all routine roadway maintenance activities in lower Fairfield County, specifically on Interstate 95, on the Merritt Parkway and on routes 1, 7 and 123 and on other busier secondary roads to ease the anticipated increased congestion.

Work on a lane expansion project on I-95 in Norwalk has been suspended until further notice, and there will be no lane closures except in the case of an emergency.

"Needless to say, I am frustrated at this situation and continue to press the folks at Con Ed and Metro-North to fix it as quickly as possible," Malloy said in a statement. "But until the problems are alleviated, we need to take whatever steps we can to help mitigate congestion on roadways."

The halted routine maintenance includes mowing, patching, catch basin brush-clearing, tree trimming and line striping. All bridge maintenance, which requires lane closures for the safety of workers, is being done at night, and all night work will be stopped and cleared by 6 a.m.

i.larraneta@theday.com

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