Metro-North: Bridge became stuck during testing

NORWALK, Conn. (WTNH) — Metro-North train service has resumed after a problem with the Walk Bridge in Norwalk disrupted service on the New Haven Line for hours Thursday.

The morning commute got off to a rough start for riders after the 118-year-old swing bridge wouldn’t close properly, which meant no train could travel to points east.

In an afternoon statement, Metro-North said a gear failure during overnight testing at 3 a.m. caused this morning’s headache for thousands of commuters.

“Temporary repairs to Walk Bridge were made shortly before 9 a.m. and we were able to re-establish train service, although delays remained through the morning period because of heavy train congestion,” the railroad said. “An investigation into the cause of this failure is underway.”

READ: Metro-North’s full statement

For most of the morning commute limited service was running on the New Haven Line, and shuttle buses were brought in to get passengers going. One message from Metro-North said:

We are currently unable to provide Eastbound train service from Stamford. Limited Westbound train service is being provided from South Norwalk. Limited Shuttle Bus Service is currently being provided between East Norwalk and South Norwalk. Customers should anticipate delays and crowded conditions.

Terri Miller was supposed to be at work at 9 a.m. Thursday in New York City. Instead, she was left stranded.

Norwalk train bridge“Because the trains are crowded, there’s nowhere to sit, nobody knows any information so I let rush hour pass before I came down. I thought the trains would be riding by 9 a.m., not the case,” said Miller.

According to MTA, shortly after 4 a.m., the walk bridge wouldn’t close because of problems with gears and wedges. That left crews scrambling to get the issue fixed.

The transfer to shuttle buses caused a ripple effect through the entire Metro-North system, halting trains in Stamford and eventually Bridgeport and New Haven.

Commuters stuck on the tracks tweeted that they were not happy about the delays.

Train stuck on the tracks in Norwalk because of a stuck bridge, May 29, 2014.
Train stuck on the tracks in Norwalk because of a stuck bridge, May 29, 2014.

Some commuters News 8 spoke with weren’t too bothered by the delay but understood the aggravation.

“I can imagine somebody had a really important job interview and it’s there last interview for something they’ve been trying to get for months,” said Scott Sidell.

LINK: Commuters rant at Metro-North

And this isn’t the first time service has been delayed because of the nearly 120-year-old bridge. The bridge has gotten stuck two other times in the past three years. Thursday, it took the Connecticut DOT nearly five hours to get everything back up and running.

Train service started going over the bridges shortly before 9 a.m. Even then, schedules were spotty.

“I know when I’m getting on the train now. I don’t even aggravate myself when I’m getting off,” said Miller.

The MTA says despite Thursday morning’s ordeal, passengers were never stranded on any trains.

The problems were another blow to the railroad, which has faced a storm of commuter and political criticism after several high-profile power outages and derailments, and what some consider the lack of concern by railroad management.

Earlier this year, the MTA put out a 100-day plan to improve service and restore commuter confidence.

The state of Connecticut has also asked the federal government for money to replace that bridge.

Amtrak service was also affected. “Service between Stamford, Ct and Bridgeport, Ct disrupted due bridge problems. Repairs underway,” Amtrak said in a message on Twitter. They are back up and running too.”

Here’s the rail line’s first Tweet about the problem:

In a message on its website from about the same time, the railroad said:

New Haven Line Service Alert: Mechanics are unable to close WALK Bridge near South Norwalk due to mechanical problems. We are currently unable to provide service between East Norwalk and South Norwalk and we are attempting to establish alternate means of transportation. Crews are currently on site attempting to correct the problem. Please check this website for updates. Customer Service representatives are at the station for assistance. Please listen for station announcements.

The bridge problem also affected Shore Line East. Train #1633, which usually continues through to Stamford, was stopped at New Haven’s Union Station.

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