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Guv Touts $400M Rail Yard Boost

by Thomas MacMillan | Jun 5, 2014 6:00 pm

(18) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: State, Transportation

Thomas MacMillan Photo Fewer power outages. Better-maintained rail cars. And rounder wheels.

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy promised those improvements Thursday during an election-year tour behind the scenes at New Haven’s rail yard.

Malloy (at left in photo with state transportation chief Jim Redeker) spent part of the morning touring improvements to the 80-acre rail yard behind Union Station in New Haven, which has been in operation since the 1800s. Malloy was accompanied by a scrum of reporters and cameras and a gaggle of transportation and railroad officials.

Malloy, who’s running for re-election this year, touted the state’s $400 million investment in improving rail service at New Haven’s rail yard, catching up with advances that neighboring New York state has already made.

A 15-year plan to improve the rail yard was initially plagued by early delays and costs that exploded beyond estimates under the Rell administration. The first component reached completion in 2009. Since then, the rail yard has renovated or build anew a repair shop, storage facility, power substation, and a new facility for prepping new M8 Metro North cars to hit the rails.

A new “component change-out shop” and a wheel-truing facility are currently under construction.

The improvements come amid a number of train-service problems in recent months, including a signaling glitch that knocked out service for hours in January.

Thursday’s tour began in the under-construction change-out shop (pictured), off of Brewery Street. The massive structure features hydraulic lifts and overhead cranes, able to work on 13 cars at once.

The new facility will be able to quickly swap out entire components—like heating, ventilation and air conditioning units—of the new M8 Metro North cars. Workers will be able to remove components that need repair, install working components and send a train on its way, rather than having to keep an entire car off the rails while one part is fixed. The modular system means broken components can be repaired separately and be ready to swap back into the fleet as needed.

Malloy said that of 405 M8 cars ordered, 360 have been delivered so far by the manufacturer. The rest are expected by the end of the year, continuing the phase-out of older train cars, some of which have been on the rails for 40 years.

Transit chief Redeker (at center in photo) said Thursday’s tour offered the first chance for people to see the “heart and soul” of the train system, the out-of-sight infrastructure that keeps trains running.

Redeker said the recently completed power substation will help to prevent power outages that can bring trains to a standstill. Power outages are unacceptable and preventable, said Gov. Malloy. For too long, the state has deferred investment or opted for short-term fixes to its train system, he said.

The improvements to the rail yard “are improvements that will return the New Haven line to best-in-class,” Malloy said.

The governor, commissioner and entourage boarded a bus to tour the yard. Ted Nezames, a state transportation department engineer, pointed out the sights as the bus rolled by.

John Hartwell, vice chair of the Connecticut Commuter Rail Council, took a seat near the governor. “We need a lot more money to be poured into” the railroad system statewide, he said.

A recent study found the state needs to invest some $3.6 billion in improvements, Hartwell said. Urgent and costly repairs are needed at four movable bridges, Hartwell said.

Malloy later said that the state is working with the federal government to secure funding soon for bridge repairs.

The tour stopped at the yard’s new wheel-truing facility (pictured), still under construction. In the old facility, nearby, a grinding machine installed in the 1960s mills wheels that have developed flat spots.

Jim Fox, principal engineer at the state transportation department, explained that train wheels have wear and tear just like any other wheels. Because they’re made of steel, the wear manifests differently than in cars. Most wear occurs during “slip and slide” season, in the fall. Leaves on the tracks can make train wheels stop and skid while braking, rather than simply slowing rotation. The resulting metal-on-metal skid of wheel against rail can create flat spots on the wheels, which then need to be ground back to round.

The new facility, to be completed this fall, will be able to do that work about four times faster. Trains will be able to pull into the building and workers can mill the wheels without removing them from the cars.

As the tour continued, Nezames (at left in photo) pointed out existing shops and storage buildings destined for improvements. As the bus headed back toward the change-out shop, Nezames described plans for a large pedestrian bridge that will span the yard, starting from the station. Being able to step off a train and walk to the yard will encourage yard workers to commute to work by train, he said.

“What a novel idea,” quipped Hartwell.

When all improvements are completed, the yard will employ about 1,600 workers, up from about 700 currently, Nezames said.

Two more years’ worth of construction is already funded, including a new warehouse, rail maintenance facility, power upgrade to the yard, and the pedestrian bridge. Last Friday, the state bonding commission approved $80 million for improvements.

Planned improvements beyond that—an inspection shop, a car washer, expansion of the diesel shop—have not yet been funded. All told, the yard improvements may cost about $1 billion, Nezames said.

Back at the change-out shop, Malloy addressed the press. “This stuff doesn’t get seen,” he said, but the behind-the-scenes work to make rail service better is a “massive investment,” he said. “This is big-time stuff.”

Malloy said the average train-rider will notice the difference. “The new fleet is a better fleet,” he said. It will be better maintained and cleaner, he said. It will be “a better customer experience.”

Asked about plans to bring back the Metro North bar car, Malloy said he’s working on it.

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posted by: RhyminTyman on June 5, 2014  4:39pm

Let’s pretend he didn’t have PILOT funding requirement bill killed for suburban votes.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 5, 2014  5:38pm

This is good, but we’re also still waiting on that second parking garage that’s been in the making for god knows how long

posted by: Threefifths on June 5, 2014  7:31pm

Snake-Oil being sold.It is election time.Dan Malloy is in trouble.He will sell you anything at this time.

posted by: Esbey on June 5, 2014  8:52pm

Good point, Madcap!

In the New Haven Independent of July 22, 2013, under the title “Guv Claims State Will Finally Build That 2nd Train Station Garage” we have the following:

“After years of planning, the state will send out a request for proposals for a new parking garage at Union Station in the next 60 days, said Gov. Dannel P. Malloy (pictured).

That was one revelation at a Monday morning press conference at Union Station ... “

Our Guv stood in our town, in our train station, looked us in right the eye, and told us a big, fat .... statement that was not close to the truth.

posted by: cupojoe on June 5, 2014  10:26pm

Where’s New Haven’s PILOT money Malloy? This is not going away no matter how much extra $$ you spend during election year.

Our politicians sell us down the river! They sell our streets, make back room deals so their causes get $$ while the city suffers, and they let the BOE chew up 112k with nary a wimper.

When is NHI going to do some investigative reporting?

posted by: Bradley on June 6, 2014  6:28am

RhyminTymin, while I and I suspect you live in New Haven, two-thirds of the state’s voters are suburbanites. Fully funding PILOT would raise their state taxes but would provide them little benefit. This may be why neither Malloy nor his predecessors have sought to fully fund the program.

Madcap, I share your frustration about the second garage. The least the state can do at this point is to lean on the MTA to increase the number of MetroNorth trains that go to State Street station.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 6, 2014  8:53am

Heck I’m not even a driver but the 2nd parking garage at the train station is the one new parking space(s) in the city I actually support because it’s needed that bad.

As for PILOT, it’s already been said. Malloy is a not one man legislative branch, the spending on PILOT has to be approved by the state assembly and legislators from the suburbs don’t see much reason to pour more money into cities.

posted by: 32knot on June 6, 2014  10:32am

Lets hope the money is spent on things that work. Union Station tunnel was renovated and it still leaks when the humidity is high never mind it raining. New electronic signs were added to all platforms but are never used. the stairs to the platforms have computer monitors to list what trains on what track but have never been used. Why did we spend the $$$ if we can not figure out how to operate the stuff we want. There is a rail car washing station in Stamford, why do we want another one???

posted by: Walt on June 7, 2014  5:52pm

Local bus riders pay only about 25%  of the true cost of their ride said the Independent recently which is OK I guess as ridership is heavily lower income folk,  often using the busses to get to their jobs,

I suspect, but do not know that Amtrak riders, always complaining,  pay an even smaller %age of their true costs when they head

I do resent their massive subsidies financed by we   CT non-commuting taxpayers.

Way past time to increase fares on the Amtrak system

posted by: Pat from Westville on June 8, 2014  3:56pm

@Walt: Amtrak? This story is about Metro North, which is not Amtrak. Metro North is commuter rail service, Amtrak runs the long distance trains (longer than daily commuting distance).

And Metro North commuters are mainly commuting to work, are taxpayers too.

Bottom line is that public transit fares, for bus or for train, probably never recover 100% of the “true cost.”

posted by: Walt on June 8, 2014  10:22pm

OK,Pat,  It is Metro North,  not Amtrak

Way past time for Metro North commuters to have their fares raised.

I’m tired of my taxes subsidizing their daily trips to get the big bucks in New York City

They should pay their own costs, or stop the continual whining.

posted by: RhyminTyman on June 9, 2014  10:19am

Walt we need more public transportation. We also need more people with higher income to ride them. Raising MetroNorth’s fares hurts everyone. From the person commuting to work Stratford or the person to the person driving in more traffic because there is less incentive to leave the car at home. Raising fares, which MTA does about every other year isn’t good for the taxpayer who has to travel any distance to work. If you own and solely use a car good public transit improves your quality of life. Are down on Shoreline East and the upcoming Springfield, Hartford, New Haven line? You shouldn’t be.

posted by: TheMadcap on June 9, 2014  11:12am

How about we don’t raise metro-north’s fares or Amtraks and instead raise the gas tax since people using mass transit is good for both society and the Earth, but you cruising along alone in your car isn’t, and all the suburban sprawl takes a ridiculous amount of money to maintain and support.

Also Amtrak covers 85% of operating costs through ticket fares and Metro-North’s is even better, with ride only having about a 10% subsidy
http://www.raisinghale.com/2013/02/26/metro-north-cut-subsidies-busway/
If only car use fees came close to paying that level of road infrastructure as well paying for the pollution created and space wasted.

posted by: RhyminTyman on June 9, 2014  11:48am

TMC, I disagree on raise the gas tax, more than the painfully obvious super high tax burden(highest in the nation) CT residents already suffer. You don’t need to punish families and business to switch behavior. All you need to do is offer them something better.

posted by: Walt on June 9, 2014  2:07pm

Madcap

If your claims were true, I would apologize and never gripe about   this topic again

Raisinghale,  to which you refer us for verification, not only does not back you up but states the direct opposite from your claim

Suggest you read it again

posted by: RhyminTyman on June 9, 2014  3:06pm

Walt it doesn’t state it amounts 10% a ride. Walt do you live in NHV?

posted by: Walt on June 9, 2014  4:22pm

Rhymin

Madcap says riders pay almost all of the cost of a RR ride. 

His reference, “raisinhale ”  indicates the opposite,  the truth, that taxpayers pay almost all the costs for the commuters’  rides,

Read it again.


Thank God,  I do not live in New Haven ,  but in CT.

Where I live is immaterial as taxpayers   all   over the State must absorb the expense of   the commuters

Why do you ask?

posted by: RhyminTyman on June 9, 2014  4:37pm

Walt bus subsidies are 200% per ride and SLE are 450%. MetroNorth is only 10%. It is pretty clearly stated in a couple different ways. The suburb question is because you seem woefully ill informed about mass transit cost, who actually uses Metronorth out NHV, the difference between Amtrack and MetroNorth. This is not unexpected when you live in a suburb. The next question is do you drive on the highway to work? If yes you want as many people as possible to take the train or bus regardless if you have no intention of using either one because of its traffic reducing nature. Try driving past Westport at 8am.

Also drop the elitist attitude, you probably live a ticky tacky mass produce home in a plot of land much too small for the house in a neighborhood that had a bunch of foreclosures last decade in a spawling suburb with 15 Dunkin Donut drive throughs. The suburbs are horrifying.

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