NORWALK — New Haven Line traffic slowed to a crawl Sunday afternoon after the four-track WALK bridge over Norwalk Harbor failed to close properly for more than three hours, according to Metro-North Railroad.
The malfunctioning bridge, which runs between the South Norwalk and East Norwalk stations, broke down at 2 p.m., when the 114-year-old span was lifted for a regularly scheduled opening to allow a boat pass into Norwalk Harbor, according to Metro-North spokeswoman Marjorie Anders.
During the malfunction, hundreds of train passengers were taken by bus between South Norwalk and East Norwalk to transfer to trains.
Service over the bridge was restored at 5:27 p.m, according to the railroad.
Alaina Birden, 27, her sister, mother, and cousin were riding the 3:07 p.m. train out of Grand Central, en route to New Haven on their way back to Avon, Boston, and Cranston, R.I., following Birden’s bachelorette weekend in New York City.
The four were stuck on the train for about an hour before being let off at South Norwalk station, Alaina Birden said, while most passengers remained patient after conductors explained the mishap.
“The biggest thing is my dogs, but right now my fiance is on the way over to take them out,” Alaina Birden said. “We’re running behind.”
Abhir Kdhate, 22, of Middletown, another passenger on the 3:07 p.m. train, said he felt mildly inconvenienced, but said passengers might have been more aggravated if not for the balmy spring-like October weather outdoors.
“It was actually a little bit of fun,” Kdhate said.
All five of the New Haven Line’s moveable bridges are more than a century old and often become stuck as they await replacement or major upgrades.
In 2010, the five movable rail spans failed to close about 70 of 747 times they were opened, causing about 75 delayed trains, according to the railroad.
During that year, the WALK malfunctioned in five of the 206 openings, behind Cos Cob bridge over the Mianus River that saw 26 malfunctions during 406 openings, while the Devon bridge had 16 malfunctions during 108 openings.
The Saga bridge in Westport had six malfunctions in 31 openings, and the Peck bridge had four malfunctions.
Italian documentary maker Francesco Lizzani and Italian professor Raffaelo Milani boarded the Amtrak Northeast Regional train at New York City because they were headed to Yale University in New Haven for an appointment with a well-respected literary figure.
“We’re very disconcerted,” Lizzani said. “The concept of public service, in Italy, is so important. I would think such an old bridge would be in a bridge museum, not between the cultural center of the world (New York City) and the intellectual center of the world (Boston).”
They had to cancel their appointment.
Staff writer Vinti Singh contributed to this report.