HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — Commuters facing long delays after a train collision and derailment disrupted their route along Connecticut's shoreline can look forward to easier traveling beginning Tuesday afternoon.
Limited, slower train service was resuming four days after a derailment injured scores of commuter rail passengers. Metro-North has been using busses to shuttle passengers around the affected area.
One of the two damaged tracks has been rebuilt and returned to service for Metro-North Railroad and Amtrak, officials said. Metro-North will operate about half the regular Tuesday evening rush-hour service.
The operation will require a reduced speed of 30 mph, which officials say is standard for new track installations. Trains will use a single track for seven miles around Bridgeport, forcing delays.
Normal 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.
"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 has been 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 there were no major problems reported.
"Ridership is up slightly over Monday on the busses," 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.
"It's like anything else, you know," said Rep. Tony Guerrera, co-chairman of the committee. "You can have a brand-new car and it runs great, but if the roads are awful, with potholes going up and down, what good is it?"
The Metro-North crash at rush hour Friday evening injured 72 people, including one who remained in critical condition Monday. It snarled commutes for roughly 30,000 people who normally use the train, forcing travelers to navigate a patchwork of cars, trains and buses.
Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said resumption of rail service is "tremendously good news."
Some commuters used the jury-rigged alternative that continued Tuesday: 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.
"Today went exceedingly well," the governor said. "People listened to us. Many people stayed home or worked from home."
Backups on the Merritt Parkway, a secondary route through Connecticut, were less than on an average Monday, and I-95 was only slightly more jammed than usual because of fog, he said.
Some delays were reported Tuesday.
Federal investigators arrived Saturday and were expected to be on site for seven to 10 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.