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Aging machinery plagues rails

Published August 29. 2014 4:00AM
Metro-North officials cite need for repairs as trains see delays

Hartford - For the second time this summer, aging equipment slowed commutes for Metro-North Railroad riders in Connecticut.

Aaron Donovan, railroad spokesman, said about 15 trains were delayed during rush-hour commutes Thursday morning in Norwalk because of a damaged 100-year-old overhead wire. The wire is to be replaced next year, he said. Service was restored by early afternoon.

The damaged wire was on the westbound local track. The eastbound express track remains out of service as timbers are replaced on the 118-year-old Walk Bridge spanning the Norwalk River.

Earlier this summer, Metro-North and Amtrak rail traffic were halted when the bridge failed to remain closed twice in eight days. The bridge troubles prompted Gov. Dannel P. Malloy to meet with rail officials in New York City in June. Connecticut is seeking $349 million from federal sources to cover much of the cost to replace the Walk Bridge.

State Sen. Bob Duff, D-Norwalk, said he hears from commuters and tries to explain that he's in contact with Metro-North, "that we're trying hard to make commuting reliable and consistent."

The state Department of Transportation is upgrading catenary wires at a cost of $77 million to make the system more reliable by preventing excessive wire sag in summer heat and breaks due to low temperatures in the winter, the agency said. Construction is just beginning and is set to be completed in April 2017.

In July 2011, damaged wires stranded passengers in an overheated train in Westport for about 45 minutes, prompting riders to open emergency windows for air.

Jim Gildea of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council said commuters continue to experience problems due to age of equipment and rail systems. "It's tough anytime you lose service ... It's very frustrating," he said.

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