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Metro-North train crash: No 'carmageddon,' but commuting challenges aplenty

The rush-hour nightmare dubbed "carmageddon" failed to materialize in the wake of Friday's Metro-North derailment and crash that injured 72 people, but commuters on buses, trains and roads still faced a tough slog Monday morning.

It took Gary Maddin of Milford, Conn., an hour to make what is normally a 20 minute drive from his home to the Bridgeport train station. From there, he planned to board a shuttle bus to Stamford where he could catch a train to Grand Central Station in New York.

"It's a lot," he said. "It's a nightmare just to get into the city today."

In Westchester, a disabled vehicle on the northbound Hutchinson River Parkway north of Exit 27 in Harrison blocked the right shoulder at 8:40 a.m.

Rubberneckers gawking at an overturned tractor trailer slowed traffic on I-287/Cross Westchester Expressway eastbound at Exit 5 in Greenburgh. Officials planned to remove the tractor-trailer after rush hour.

Traffic was bumper-to-bumper on the Tappan Zee Bridge as residual delays continued from earlier accidents.

Connecticut state transportation officials said traffic on Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway also was at a crawl Monday morning, with the trip between Bridgeport and Stamford estimated at about an hour during the height of the rush hour.

Metro-North was using 120 buses in Connecticut to help rail commuters make their way around the scene of Friday's accident when one train derailed and struck another train near the Bridgeport station. About 700 passengers were onboard both trains.

A shuttle train was operating about every 20 minutes Monday morning between New Haven and Bridgeport. From there commuters could take and express bus to Stamford or a local bus that also made stops in Fairfield and Westport.

"I just hope I can get to work safe, [and] back home," said Jamar Roy of Bridgeport as he boarded a bus to his job in Stamford. "I'm just going to roll with the punches."

During a Sunday news conference, Connecticut Gov. Dan Malloy warned that if all commuters shift to the highway en masse, "we will literally have a parking lot."

Jim Cameron, chairman of the Connecticut Rail Commuter Council, said that commuters appeared to respond to official warnings.

"I think people heeded the governor's advice to stay home or go to New York City and stay there," he said. "People heeded the warnings and avoided 'carmageddon' as I called it. We frightened people enough to make them consider" their options.

Cameron had said that Friday's train crash would leave about 20,000 of the 30,000 commuters who use the affected stations groping for alternative transportation.

With the exception of the New Haven line in Connecticut, trains and buses in New York were running on time with no reported service disruptions.

"I think it's delayed the trains by about 10 to 15 minutes," said Bruce Clark, 67, on his way to work in Manhattan from New Rochelle Monday morning. "Other than that, I haven't seen a major change. I feel for the people from Connecticut because I know some people from work who commute from up north.

"I feel completely safe; the MTA has a very good record. That derailment will not affect me," Clark said.

Several days of round-the-clock work will be required, including inspections and testing of the newly rebuilt system, Metro-North President Howard Permut said. The damaged rail cars were removed from the tracks on Sunday, the first step toward making the repairs.

Amtrak service between New York and New Haven was also suspended and there was no estimate on service restoration. Limited service was available between New Haven and Boston.

Five of those injured in the derailment and two-train crash remained in hospitals as of Monday, according to Metro-North officials.

NTSB investigators arrived Saturday and are expected to be on site for seven to 10 days. They will look at the brakes and performance of the trains, the condition of the tracks, crew performance and train signal information, among other things.

The cars involved in the crash are M8 models, introduced in 2011, but the tracks on sections of the New Haven Line are old-fashioned jointed rails, said Anthony Bottalico, general chairman of the Association of Commuter Rail Employees.

The older jointed rails are bolted together and prone to cracking, he said.

The rest of the Metro-North system -- and most modern railroads -- use ribbon rail, also known as continuously welded rail, Bottalico said.

The MTA operates the Metro-North Railroad, the second-largest commuter railroad in the nation. The Metro-North mainlines -- the Hudson, Harlem, and New Haven -- run northward from New York City's Grand Central Terminal into suburban New York and Connecticut.

The last significant train collision involving Metro-North occurred in 1988 when a train engineer was killed in Mount Vernon when one train with no passengers rear-ended another, railroad officials said.

With Thomas Zambito and The Associated Press

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