NEW HAVEN, Conn. – After a nearly four-hour commute Tuesday morning, Orlando Cordero was thrilled to hear train service was returning to normal as workers were finishing repair to tracks damaged by last week’s train collision in Bridgeport.
Regular commuter rail service from Connecticut to New York City, along with Amtrak service between Boston and New York, was scheduled to resume during Wednesday morning’s rush hour on one of the nation’s oldest and most heavily traveled railways.
Limited, slower train service was planned for Tuesday’s evening rush hour for Metro-North and Amtrak.
Cordero, a 38-year-old lawyer from New Haven, considered staying with a friend in New York to avoid the long commutes since Friday’s derailment of a Metro-North train and collision with another train.
But “I’m relieved,” he said Tuesday. “I was anticipating that the delays were going to last the entire week. I’m very grateful that they’re resuming service tomorrow.”
The Metro-North crash at rush hour Friday evening injured 72 people, including one who remained in critical condition Tuesday. It snarled commutes for roughly 30,000 people who normally use the train, forcing travelers to navigate a patchwork of cars, trains and buses.
As of late Tuesday, one of the two damaged tracks was rebuilt and returned to service for Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak, officials said.
Metro-North expected to operate about half the regular Tuesday evening rush-hour service at a reduced speed of 30 mph, which officials said is standard for new track installations. The trains would use a single track for seven miles around Bridgeport, forcing delays.
“We recognize the critical importance of both Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak to the regional economy,” Metro-North President Howard Permut said. “Although reconstruction and testing of the second track will not be completed until late tonight, enough work has been completed to allow us to operate this limited service in advance of resuming our regular schedule on Wednesday.”
The track was rebuilt to current Federal Railroad Administration standards using all new materials and underwent rigorous testing, officials said. Railroad officials said the speed of the rebuilding effort was the result of hundreds of skilled people in multiple crafts working around the clock since Saturday night.
Aaron Donovan, a spokesman for Metropolitan Transportation Authority, which operates Metro-North, said no major problems were reported.
“Ridership is up slightly over Monday on the buses,” he said. “Other than that it is running as expected.”
Connecticut lawmakers plan hearings on the crash on the rail network they say is in need of extensive improvements.
Members of the General Assembly’s Transportation Committee said they have been briefed by state transportation officials over the years about the hefty investment Connecticut needs to make to fully upgrade the commuter rail line, including a couple of 100-year-old bridges that need to be replaced.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said resumption of rail service is “tremendously good news.”
Some commuters used a shuttle train ran between New Haven and Bridgeport, where a bus connection to Stamford circumvented the accident scene, and finally customers boarded a train for New York.
Others drove themselves, and state officials nervously watched heavy traffic on two major arteries in southwest Connecticut, Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway.
But transportation officials were pleased that area highways were not as choked as they feared, Malloy said. He said commuters heeded his warning over the weekend about the prospect of highways becoming parking lots if all 30,000 of the usual train riders drove instead.
Federal investigators were expected to be on site for several more days. They are looking at a broken section of rail to see if it is connected to the derailment and collision. Officials said it wasn’t clear whether the rail was broken in the crash or earlier.