Metro-North Railroad riders can expect longer commutes in the coming months — thanks to more maintenance, track and bridge work.

“We have knocked off the low-hanging fruit,” Metro-North President Catherine Rinaldi told Metropolitan Transportation Authority board members this week.

“We are now moving to areas that will be a lot more impactful,” Rinaldi said, referring to how the more extensive work will significantly delay trains.

The solution, Metro-North officials announced, is to increase trip times rather than slow down infrastructure work.

The New Haven Line plans to add four to eight minutes to trips between Stamford and New York City and trains traveling from farther away will have from 5 to 12 minutes added to their travel time.

Metro-North said the extra time will allow for slowdowns — including those required because of infrastructure work — without putting service behind schedule.

The schedule changes are set to be implemented in two phases, in April and July, officials said.

“The work will ultimately result in a safer, more reliable ride for years into the future," said John Kesich, senior vice president for Metro-North.

“As we take tracks out service it creates temporary operating constraints, and we are adjusting the schedules to provide customers with a reliable service,” Kesich said.

Metro-North officials noted that the railroad’s on time performance last year — trains were on time only 90.1 percent of the time — was largely attributable to track and bridge work.

The New Haven line posted 88.9 percent OTP, due in large part to the ongoing replacement of the Walk Bridge in Norwalk.

Jim Gildea, president of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, said he understands why Metro-North is increasing trip times.

“I do understand the frustration of the daily commuter,” Gildea said. “Having time built into the schedule is not pleasurable and extends the time that it takes to get to work.”

But Gildea said the reality is that there is much infrastructure work to be done.

“This is an age-old problem, reliability and safety versus speed, and as unpleasant as it may seem, this is work that needs to get done and this is the time that it takes to complete it,” Gildea said.

The MTA board passed a resolution asking Metro-North officials to define the work, set a deadline for completion and create an alternative plan to speed up the pace of the work.

“Reinstating safety is paramount,” noted MTA board member Neal Zuckerman. “I’d like to know when the ‘catch up’ work will be done.”

bcummings@ctpost.com