Exasperated by the latest calamity to befall his administration, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy last Thursday threatened legal action against Con Edison and the MTA against the backdrop of rush-hour commuters inconvenienced by a catastrophic power outage on the New Haven Line of Metro-North Railroad.
"I have to tell you, I'm the governor of 125,000 pretty unhappy commuters right now," Malloy said, briefing a news media throng at Grand Central Terminal's Vanderbilt Hall on the scope of the 36-hour-old outage.
Malloy had just finished a closed-door meeting with railroad and utility brass at the Manhattan transit hub, where the governor and Connecticut's transportation commissioner, James Redeker, said there were more questions than answers.
They said they were told it could take until Oct. 14 to restore full power to the nation's busiest commuter line, which was crippled last Wednesday when a backup feeder line supplying electricity to overhead catenary wires failed in Mt. Vernon, N.Y.
The railroad is currently in the process of modernizing a substation that normally supplies trains with power.
"That's unacceptable," Malloy said of the timetable for fixing the outage. "We made them aware that's unacceptable."
The timetable for the repair could be expedited to Oct. 7, said Malloy, who called on the MTA and Con Edison to dedicate more resources to the transportation emergency.
"There appears to have been little plan for this catastrophic failure," Malloy said.
In contrast to weary commuters, who have been forced to cram into diesel-powered trains or divert to the Harlem Line serving Westchester County, the governor appeared his usual coiffed self, prompting one reporter to ask how he got to Grand Central.
"Not by train," Malloy said with a smile.
When asked who bears the blame for the nightmarish commute, Metro-North or Con Edison, Malloy simply answered, "Yep."
The governor showed his displeasure several times during the 5:45 p.m. news conference, saying the railroad owes commuters a refund for the service disruption.
"This is not an act of God, as we normally treat weather conditions," Malloy said.
Malloy urged commuters to reconsider their travel plans.
Malloy gave Metro-North officials low marks for their communication, saying that it took several hours last Wednesday for his office to get briefed on the severity of the problem.
In an interview with Hearst Connecticut Newspapers, Redeker said he was still unclear on what caused the failure of the feeder line. The railroad and Con Edison are still in the process of assessing the damage to their infrastructure, he said.
"I really don't think they know," Redeker said.
The planned upgrade of the Mount Vernon substation got underway two weeks ago and was scheduled to be a month-long project, according to a spokeswoman for the railroad who listened in on Redeker's interview with the newspaper. The substation was built in 1977.
Redeker said there is a program in place for upgrading equipment at other power substations along the New Haven Line in Connecticut, in part due to their age and also due to the additional demand the state's new M-8 rail cars have put on the system.
Malloy closed his news conference with a word of warning for the MTA and Con Edison, saying that legal action is on the table if there is a lack of swift action.
Commuters appeared to heed the warnings of elected officials to avoid the railroad, with fewer than normal riders on Manhattan-bound trains during the early evening rush Thursday and platforms still passable at Grand Central for those leaving the city.
"I hope they reimburse people's tickets," said Sharon Perineau, 42, who commutes to her job as a Cos Cob nanny from the Fordham section of the Bronx.
Perineau and her friend, Latoya Myers, 28, said they were forced to take a Harlem Line train to White Plains, N.Y., where they took a bus to a Manhattan-bound train in Stamford for three stops to get to Cos Cob.
"It was terrible," Myers said.
Nathan Newhall, 21, a Sacred Heart University senior from Stamford, boarded a diesel train to 125th Street with his family for the final Yankees home game of the season. The No. 42 jersey of Mariano Rivera, who was expected to pitch his final game at Yankee Stadium, was folded in his lap.
"Hopefully, there's a train coming back," Newhall said.