Update on state transportation concerns
It’s time to update you on some of the hot topics we’ve discussed in recent weeks:
Malloy’s transit land grab — Remember the governor’s stealth proposal for a “Transit Corridor Development Authority,” described by some as “eminent domain on steroids”? Well, the initial idea to allow the state to acquire any land within a half-mile of train stations was modified, then killed in the legislature. I predict it will be back.
Bridge woes — Just as planning begins to replace Norwalk’s 118-year-old railroad bridge, which opens but doesn’t close, another ancient bridge is suffering the same engineering arthritis. On July 1 the Devon Bridge in Stratford was raised but wouldn’t close, delaying every train that ran across it for days. Estimated replacement cost, $750 million.
Stamford garage — It has been two years since the CDOT tapped Darien developer John McClutchy as its choice to demolish the old rail station garage. (That announcement came 10 days after, just coincidentally, McClutchy’s wife donated $10,000 to the state Democrats.) But a final deal has yet to be signed for reasons unknown, so any work is still many months away. Meanwhile in April of this year the old garage was crumbling so badly that the CDOT closed it for safety inspections. Those inspections were completed, but the garage is still closed, displacing 700+ daily commuters.
This is “safety first”? — On June 29, Metro-North allowed two trains to run toward each other on a single track just south of New Canaan. Fortunately they stopped before a collision, and one of the trains backed up and out of the way. When reporters first asked Metro-North what happened, it insisted nothing was wrong. Later, it described the incident as “undesirable train routing,” an amazing euphemism for a near collision.
Taken to court in handcuffs — Is it reassuring to passengers to see MTA conductors and engineers on a “perp walk” for the news media? Thirteen current and former employees of the MTA were taken to court last week, indicted on charges of cheating on safety exams that were testing their knowledge of signals, speed limits and safe operation of trains. The cheating ring ran for more than two years in a period just before Metro-North was hit with a series of derailments and collisions. Eight different exam cycles were compromised before the MTA’s internal investigators started their probe.
How late was your train? — When the 11:39 p.m. left Grand Central on the night of July 1, passengers settled in for a nap en route to Stamford and a 12:48 a.m. arrival. But instead of taking one hour, their journey took three. Near Woodlawn, the train entered a section with an inoperative third-rail and coasted to a halt. The train sat there for 90 minutes before a rescue train arrived, taking 40 minutes to pull them to a station where passengers got on another train. To their credit, the crew did pass out water to the stranded passengers … never a good sign when you’re on a stranded train.
Jim Cameron is founder of The Commuter Action Group, and a member of the Darien RTM. The opinions expressed in this column are only his own. You can reach him at CommuterActionGroup@gmail.com. For a full collection of “Talking Transportation” columns, see www.talkingtransportation.blogspot.com.