MTA Metro-North Railroad officials recently presented to the New York and Connecticut governors a 100-day report on the railroad’s action plan designed to improve safety, restore reliability and improve communications.
Of the plan’s 32 initiatives, 21 have been fully implemented, seven are in progress and two will be pursued after outside entities submit independent reports, Metro-North officials said in a press release. Two additional initiatives — implementing a “back-to-basics” plan for train reliability and service delivery, and communicating service delivery information to customers and elected officials — will continue as ongoing, long-term Metro-North priorities, they said.
Major improvements that have been completed include enhancing track inspection and maintenance, installing alerters and video cameras in engineers’ cabs, beefing up the safety and training departments, expanding employee testing programs to ensure understanding of safety rules, creating a computer-based track worker safety system, and implementing a Confidential Close Call Reporting System.
The Federal Railroad Administration completed its review of Metro-North practices in May, and its recommendations are incorporated into the 100-Day report. Two external reports, from the MTA’s Blue Ribbon Panel and the National Transportation Safety Board, have not yet been submitted, but Metro-North has committed to implementing any recommendations from those entities that have not already been addressed, railroad officials said.
“Metro-North intends to maintain its infrastructure and rolling stock to the highest standards of safety and reliability,” said President Joseph Giulietti. “This requires ensuring that we have established the appropriate inspection, maintenance and replacement plans and that we have the necessary resources to carry them out effectively. This will require ongoing funding, not only for Metro-North’s operating budget, but also for the railroad’s capital needs in New York and Connecticut.”
Metro-North’s action plans were put into place following a series of accidents, including the Dec. 1 derailment near the Bronx, N.Y., that resulted in four deaths. The train derailed after speeding through a curve.
On the recommendation of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA) is creating a Transportation Reinvention Commission to ensure the capital plan it submits by Oct. 1 will adequately account for demographic, ridership and climate shifts that will shape mass transit in this century. In Connecticut, Gov. Dannel Malloy and the Congressional delegation have pledged to seek federal funding for their state’s investment needs.
Meanwhile, MTA Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Thomas Prendergast and Giulietti met on Monday with Malloy and Connecticut Transportation Commissioner James Redeker to develop short- and long-term strategies for addressing infrastructure needs of the 118-year-old Walk Bridge that crosses the Norwalk River in downtown Norwalk, Conn. Metro-North and Amtrak service in Connecticut was disrupted for the second time in two weeks earlier this month. On June 6, the swing bridge — which allows marine traffic to pass underneath — got stuck in the open position and failed to close properly.
Teams from the Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) and Metro-North will conduct an operation review of procedures at the bridge to minimize future risk of failure; the teams will work together and are expected to report their findings and recommendations by mid-July. Over the long term, both parties will push for federal funding to allow for the replacement of the bridge, according to a Metro-North press release.
Connecticut Gov. Dannel Malloy and Connecticut Department of Transportation (ConnDOT) Commissioner James Redeker last week toured the New Haven Rail Yard, which is undergoing a $1.15 billion, multi-year upgrade and expansion.
Malloy also announced that a fifth new power supply substation has been put into service on the New Haven commuter-rail line, adding more redundancy and increasing options to reduce the chance of future prolonged power failures, state officials said in a press release.
“This rebuilding and expansion is the best demonstration of our commitment to investing in new facilities, maintaining our rail assets and providing the best and safest possible service to Connecticut commuters,” Malloy said.
Connecticut’s State Bond Commission, chaired by Malloy, recently approved $80 million for the rail yard program. The state funding will pay for a new warehouse for rail-car components, storage tracks for rail cars, demolition of an old storage facility and a pedestrian bridge linking Union Station and the yard so employees can more easily access the facility.
“We have seen what can happen when there’s a major power failure on this railroad – disrupting service, inconveniencing commuters and the ripple effect into the local and regional economy,” said Redeker, referring to last fall’s power outage on the New Haven Line in Mount Vernon, N.Y., which disrupted service for two weeks.
The officials’ tour began at the yard’s $215 million “Component Change-Out Shop,” which features a 35-ton bridge crane and in-floor lifts that can lift cars individually or in pairs.
Last month, a fifth new power supply substation was put into service for the rail yard by United Illuminating Co. in partnership with ConnDOT. Previously, the yard was powered by the Devon Supply Substation in Milford. The new power source and its electric switch heaters will allow additional redundancy and power options to maintain and operate the New Haven Line more efficiently and safely, state officials said.