Hwang, Rutigliano call for action and solutions on Metro North service disruptions

A group of Fairfield County legislators including Trumbull State Reps. David Rutigliano (R-123) and Tony Hwang (R-134) held a press conference at the Fairfield Metro Train Station to express the growing alarm at the deterioration of service on the Metro-North Railroad.

The mounting problems that have plagued the Metro-North Railroad have reached a crisis point, legislators said. A series of failures arising from mismanagement, negligence, and aged railroad infrastructure have resulted in the injury and death of scores of commuters.

Legislative leaders of the Transportation committee State Senators Andrew Maynard (D-Stonington) and Toni Boucher (R-Wilton), and State Representatives Tony Guerrera (D-Rocky Hill) and David Scribner (R-Brookfield) wrote a letter to Connecticut’s Congressional delegation and to the U.S. Department of Transportation, lawmakers wrote that “mounting problems that have plagued Metro-North Railroad over the course of the last two years have reached a crisis point.”

“We ask our Congressional delegation and the U.S. Department of Transportation to prioritize funding for repairs and maintenance on Metro North, with particular attention to the New Haven Line,” lawmakers wrote. “As it stands, the infrastructure is not strong enough to withstand the continuous problems affecting it.”

“There are issues across Fairfield County that bind us all together, Metro North may not run though Trumbull, but plenty of our town’s citizens use it to commute every day,” Rutigliano said. “Hartford has raided the Special Transportation Fund to the tune of $184 million over the last few years, this money was to be collected to maintain and improve our roads and rails. Our government’s priorities are completely out of step, it approves $500 million for a nine-mile Busway from New Britain to Hartford, and meanwhile in Fairfield County our roads and rails are crumbling. This is criminal. Fairfield County is the most productive place in the state, accounting for 45% of all taxes collected. It is in the states’ best interest to make the most productive more productive.”

Hwang praised the formation of the “Commuter Action Group” formed by Jim Cameron, former head of the Connecticut Metro-North Rail Commuter Council, which gives commuters the ability to voice rail complaints immediately to Metro-North officials and state lawmakers.

Hwang also spearheaded legislation through the General Assembly last session to preserve and protect the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council as legislative watchdog for our rail system.

“The coordinated efforts of the rail council along with the commuter action group’s voice on behalf of rail commuters will yield the most effective solutions to ensure safety and efficiency of Metro North,” said Rep. Hwang. “South-Western Connecticut legislators must represent and fight for funding to repair and update our deteriorating rail infrastructure in a limited budget environment, rather than voting to spend over $500 million to build a brand new bus way to connect New Britain to Hartford.”

Metro-North Railroad represents one of the largest, busiest and most important transit systems in the country. Nearly 40 million riders rely on the New Haven Line every year. Any disruption has an immediate ripple effect on business and jobs, and equipment breakdowns have considerably slowed train traffic or brought it to a halt. Rail commuters have reacted to this steadily worsening situation with an outcry for help.

The legislators urged Metro-North to establish measurable goals to achieve a safer and more dependable standard of service. The most salient issues for commuters include:

• Adherence to national safety standards and protocols that are currently not being met

• A commitment to immediately resolve passenger problems that are now occurring on a weekly basis

• Providing evidence of management oversight of all employee activities

The legislators insisted that the situation must be addressed now to restore trust in Metro-North’s ability to run its operations. However, Connecticut has little to no leverage since it is locked into a 60-year contract with Metro-North.