Harrison, Rye battle Metro-North power woes

HarrisonTrain1

A temporary substation in Harrison meant to bring some Metro-North electric trains back to life was set up this past week after a 138,000 volt feeder failed in Mt. Vernon on Sept. 25. Photo/Phil Nobile

By PHIL NOBILE
and LIZ BUTTON
As Metro-North’s New Haven line continues to experience delays and disabled trains, Westchester County has provided both Metro-North and Con Edison with alternatives and assistance over the past week, alleviating some travel woes for county residents.

In Harrison, a portion of the train station parking lot on Sunnyside Place became the site for a temporary fix to the ongoing Metro-North train power outage, which has caused major commuter issues since a high voltage feeder failed in Mt. Vernon at 5:22 a.m. on Sept. 25.

In addition to experiencing service changes, riders have been forced to use different train lines or take their cars to work, creating traffic jams along highways leading to New York City.

Harrison’s temporary fix involves a substation that sprung up almost overnight at the train station last weekend. The setup, which is normally used for lights and air conditioning, re-directs 13,000 volts of electricity from the local distribution system into the temporary feeders.

According to Con Edison, the primary focus has been “establishing temporary feeders in Harrison, reconnecting the 138,000-volt feeder that was taken out to accommodate Metro-North’s upgrade work and repairing the second 138,000 volt feeder that faulted.”

Section manager for Con Edison Tom Zazzarino said the three feeders in Harrison are providing some power to Metro-North from local electricity, but not nearly the regular amount.

“We’re drawing the power from our distribution system in the area,” Zazzarino said. “We have some backups in case we have any problems with the system, or for any other problems, because we are drawing more power than we’d normally draw.”

Zazzarino said the substation would not affect local businesses and residents’ rates and Con Edison expects full service to be restored by Oct. 7.

Harrison Mayor Ron Belmont, a Republican, had initial concerns about the setup, including the amount of parking spaces occupied.

“It was initially supposed to take up 12 to 15 spots,” Belmont said. “It has blossomed since then.”

According to Belmont, the Harrison location was chosen on a basis of proximity to the most reliable power source. Although full service is expected to return next week, the substation will remain in the parking lot for another month, as it serves as a temporary backup in case further complications arise.

In neighboring Rye City, Westchester County set up temporary parking at Playland Monday to facilitate travel to New York City. Republican County Executive Rob Astorino, who authorized the program, said the county will be reimbursed by Metro-North for any costs incurred.

County officials worked with transit officialsto manage the temporary solution and open up the temporary 1,500-space parking lot with shuttle buses to get riders to the White Plains station so as to use the Harlem train line. Astorino said 40 buses will be in service this week running from Rye Playland every 10 minutes during rush hour. The buses are also scheduled to run every 30 minutes during off-peak hours, according to county officials, with the focus being on the morning and evening commute. Astorino said he is in constant communication with MTA and utility company officials to monitor the situation.

Rye City Mayor Douglas French, a Republican, said that the city has been coordinating with Con Edison, the MTA and the county on other initiatives to accommodate commuters that include designating the Rye train station as another drop-off point for passengers coming from Playland and providing space for installing additional generators Con Edison brought in in case the Harrison plan failed.

A second lot was also opened Monday at Kensico Dam Park in Valhalla, which accomodates 600 cars, with shuttle buses to take commuters to the North White Plains station around a mile away.

Mayor French, who personally experienced the delays while heading home from work in New York City on Oct.1,, said he is disappointed with what he sees as a lack of planning and infrastructure investment by Con Edison and the MTA.

“While we are not happy by any means about having to again be put in this position, everyone is being as patient as possible,” said French. .

The affected commuters, running between Stamford, Conn., and Grand Central Station, were told by state and MTA officials that the power failure was expected to last for days, although Con Edison is continuing to add alternative power sources for the line.As of Monday, New Haven Line trains were running at 50 percent capacity.

Con Edison officials said work crews are attending to the problem around the clock in order to restore service, but that “repairs of this nature typically take two to three weeks.”

Con Edison said it was unsure of the reason for the failure of the feeder cable that supplies electricity to the railroad’s overhead power lines.

Another feeder normally providing service to the New Haven line was out on scheduled repairs to accommodate Metro-North upgrades on their equipment, according to the utility, which has further complicated the situation. MTA officials said they are assessing the possibility of finishing the upgrades ahead of schedule.

Contact: phil@hometwn.com; liz@hometwn.com

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About Liz Button

Liz Button is a staff reporter for Hometown Media Group’s The Rye Sound Shore Review. Previously, she covered Bedford and Mount Kisco for The Daily Voice, an Internet-based, hyperlocal publication. She’s also written for Patch in her hometown of Trumbull, Conn., as a freelance reporter and fill-in editor. Preceding her time there, she worked in publishing in New York City. She is a 2008 graduate of Bowdoin College with a degree in English. Reach Liz at 914-653-1000 x20 or liz@hometwn.com; follow her on Twitter @ryesoundshore.