The Ottumwa Courier

September 26, 2013

Frustration for Conn., NY rail commuters

VERENA DOBNIK
Associated Press

---- — NEW YORK (AP) — Tens of thousands of commuters traveling into and out of New York City are scrambling to devise alternative routes after a power failure on a heavily trafficked line of the nation's second-largest commuter railroad brought service to a creep and forced commuters into cars, clogging the highways.

Officials were working Thursday to find alternative power sources to end the hours-long delays that could last for weeks after a high-voltage feeder cable failed early Wednesday at a suburban New York station.

"I'm just trying to get through the next two days," said Pete Hartney, 64, who makes a daily two-hour commute from Guilford, Conn., to New York City that has extended by 90 minutes following the power outage. "I'm going to try to put up with whatever they throw our way for the next few days, then formulate a plan over the weekend."

Tens of thousands of people in the densely populated suburbs north of New York City and into Connecticut use the Metro-North commuter railroad. Metro-North said its service plans for Thursday's commuters can accommodate about 33 percent of the regular ridership and urged customers to stay at home or find alternative services.

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

"This is going to be a substantial disruption for a substantial period of time," said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy at a Wednesday evening press conference in Hartford, Conn., adding the line serving New Haven, Conn., was the busiest in the nation, with 125,000 daily passengers and serving 38 stations and 23 towns. "Folks, plan on long-term lack of service or being underserved," he said.

The delays had a ripple effect Wednesday. Interstate 95 saw significant traffic congestion Wednesday morning in Connecticut, where it runs near the railroad. And Amtrak, which runs along the same Metro-North corridor, advised passengers that service in the Northeast was operating with significant delays. Acela Express service was suspended between New York and Boston, and service between New York and Washington was delayed.

Irate passengers vented online, and the head of a commuter advisory group complained that rail service was disrupted frequently over the summer for needed track work in New York. Wednesday's disruption, though not Metro-North's fault, adds to frustration among commuters, commuter advocate Jim Cameron said.

"It means commuters must have a Plan B and a Plan C," he said.

During the evening rush hour at Grand Central Terminal, hundreds of frustrated commuters who rely on the out-of-service New Haven line scrambled to come up with alternative routes.

Attorney Robert Drucker said he was looking at a 2 1/2-hour commute, more than twice his usual 55-minute trip, back to his Stamford, Conn., home. On Wednesday morning, Drucker drove his car to a White Plains, N.Y., station on a different Metro-North line, parked it and took a different train into the city.

"There was so much traffic, with everybody lined up," he said of his early morning commute, as he prepared for the evening trip ahead. "It'll take forever."

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Associated Press writers Susan Haigh in Mashantucket, Conn., and Stephen Singer in Hartford, Conn., contributed to this report.