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Malloy touts completed rail work in Bridgeport

Published 3:47 pm, Wednesday, May 7, 2014
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For the first time in four years, Metro-North trains will be able to run on all four tracks in a stretch between Bridgeport and the Southport section of Fairfield following installation of a new catenary system, giving the railroad better ability to operate normally during service outages.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced completion of the project Tuesday afternoon at a news conference with Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Jim Redeker at Union Station.

"There is understandably a negative public perception of the reliability of our railroad infrastructure and state of good repair," Malloy said. "While I realize there is no silver bullet, I want to assure riders that they will have safe and reliable commute as soon as possible."

Malloy also spoke about his commitment to press Metro-North officials to improve safety, as well as re-establish on-time performance and add new service, two goals he said should be bigger priorities as part of a May 11 schedule change.

Metro-North executives have said the schedule is tailored to reduce trip times that grown systemwide -- most heavily on the New Haven Line -- after federal a crackdown. Federal officials focused on speeds on sharp curves and moveable bridges, and extensive track work initiated after a May 17 derailment of a train that collided with another in Bridgeport. The new restrictions affect five moveable bridges on the New Haven Line, and two sharp curves in Bridgeport and Port Chester, N.Y.

"It has been a strained relationship," Malloy said.

Metro-North officials since winter have been planning a timetable change for May to offset trip time added by new speed restrictions imposed by the Federal Railroad Administration. It issued the order in the wake of a December high-speed derailment in the Bronx, N.Y., that killed four people.

That order also mandated automated breaking on trains in the event an engineer failed to comply with speed restrictions.

In that accident, the engineer operating the train said he was in a daze prior to the accident in which the train jumped the tracks at 82 mph in an area posted for 30.

"It's a sad fact that the poor performance of the railroad has given us more leverage to deal with them," Malloy said.

In August, the state will begin replacement of the final two sections of catenary on the New Haven Line. The project began in 1998 to install the constant tension system that is expected to eliminate wire breakage due to contraction and expansion in hot and cold weather.

Malloy said the impacts of that work will be minimized by maintaining service on one of two tracks until the completion of the work in spring 2017. The work includes replacement of 10.5 miles of overhead wire in two sections from East Norwalk to Greens Farms in Westport and Bridgeport east to the Devon bridge in Milford.

After speaking critically of Metro-North, Malloy acknowledged that Connecticut's General Assembly bears responsibility for failing to prioritize spending over the years on the catenary and other projects to improve service.

"Connecticut caused a lot of its own problems by not investing," Malloy said.