Monday, February 3, 2014

Crisco seeks fed intervention to hold Metro-North accountable

Lawmakers call on transit leaders to testify
HARTFORD - Citing the mounting problems that have plagued the Metro-North Railroad over the course of the last two years, state Sen. Joseph J. Crisco, Jr., D-Woodbridge, joined Democratic and Republican legislators Monday to ask the Chairman and CEO of the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the new President of Metro-North Railroad to testify before the General Assembly.

Sen. Crisco
“We’re here today because it is simply unacceptable what our state’s commuters have had to suffer through,” Crisco said.
“A series of accidents and a breakdown in the functionality of Metro-North have thrown into question the safety and reliability of the railroad. It is the responsibility of our government to step in and aid Metro-North in whatever way necessary to improve safety and restore credibility to the railroad. Commuters are calling out to us for help, and as constituent servants it is our responsibility to make these concerns known.”

The legislators sent a letter outlining their requests and concerns to the MTA, federal and state transportation officials, Governor Malloy and the state’s Congressional delegation.

The letter asks Thomas F. Prendergast (MTA Chairman and CEO) and Joseph Giulietti (Metro-North Railroad President) to come before the Transportation Committee, proposes measurable goals for Metro-North to improve its credibility, and asks for federal and state assistance in both aiding Metro-North in meeting these goals and securing necessary funding to support critical infrastructure improvements.

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.

A series of failures arising from mismanagement, negligence, and aged railroad infrastructure has reached a crisis point, resulting in the injury and death of scores of commuters. The legislators drew attention to a partial list of the serious accidents, fatalities, examples of poor management and lack of oversight, alleged fraud and criminal activity that speak to a breakdown in the management structure of Metro North.

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.

On Sunday Malloy announced a $10 million plan to upgrade the electric infrastructure which provides power to the New Haven Line. The legislators hailed this project as a major step in the right direction, but stressed that the state cannot solve all of Metro-North’s major problems alone.

They suggested the federal government may wish to provide Metro-North with managerial and technical expertise to resolve the serious problems that they are experiencing. This assistance could be a valuable transitional tool for the new leadership of the railroad as it works to fill the existing void in its management.

The legislators also called attention to Metro-North’s aging infrastructure, and asked the state’s Congressional delegation and the U.S. and Connecticut Departments of Transportation to prioritize funding for repairs and maintenance on Metro-North, with particular attention to the New Haven Line.

Some of the railroad’s catenary lines and track are over 100 years old and are particularly vulnerable to severe weather conditions, which occur regularly and should not serve as an excuse for poor service.
Adequate funding is also needed for a reliable power supply that is vital to any well-functioning and secure rail system.

This is a press release from Crisco's office.

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