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Mon October 15, 2012

Severe, Erratic Weather Affecting Connecticut's Infrastructure

Erratic weather patterns, and an increasing number of extreme weather events, are worrying public transit agencies like Metro-North. WNPR’s Neena Satija reports on what climate change could mean for commuters.

Metro-North’s tracks on the New Haven line are already some of the oldest in the region. They cost $90 million a year just to maintain. So when extreme weather events like the near-tornadoes two weeks ago happen, it’s hard to avoid serious delays.

Howard Permut is President of Metro-North railroad. He says, “Sometimes you just, you know, you can’t do it. The systems get overwhelmed.”

Two weeks ago when a nasty system of storms zipped through the state, trains had to slow down significantly because of what’s called “slippery rail.” That happens when a slimy substance left by crushed leaves on the rails gets wet, and the train’s wheels slip and slide. Congestion on the New Haven line was severe. And to top that off, 20 trees either knocked out electricity on the tracks or blocked the path of other trains.

“We have thousands of people get delayed until we can cut down the tree….drainage throughout the system.”

Metro-North is operated by the Metropolitan Transit Authority or MTA, which also operates New York City’s subway system and the Long Island Railroad. The MTA filed for $65 million worth of insurance claims after Hurricane Irene last year. $27 million of those claims came from Metro-North.

Connecticut has spent billions of dollars on new rail cars, which should be less susceptible to bad weather. But the rest of Metro-North’s infrastructure, including the tracks and the century-old moveable bridges, has a long way to go.

Read more at the Connecticut Mirror.