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Con Ed: Temporary Power Fix Could Alleviate Some Woes On Metro-North

HARRISON, N.Y. (CBSNewYork/AP) -- It has been a mess for anyone trying to ride the New Haven Line on the Metro-North Railroad, with the massive power outage earlier this week.

But on Saturday morning, there was hope to get some things back on track.

As CBS 2's Janelle Burrell reported, Con Edison crews were hard at work in Harrison Saturday morning. The goal was to get a makeshift substation up and running, bringing some additional trains – and hopefully some relief – to Metro-North riders who have been short on patience since the mishap this past Wednesday.

Con Ed: Temporary Power Fix Could Alleviate Some Woes On Metro-North

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The plan is to create a temporary fix near the Harrison station, using residential power and three portable transformers to create voltage for the trains to use.

"It's like we built a temporary substation in a place where there wasn't anything before," said Con Ed project manager Steve Perisi.

Such a setup to tap into power has never been attempted before, Con Ed President Craig Ivey told WCBS 880's Sophia Hall.

"It normally serves lights and air conditioning, and we're going to try to use this to feed train service, which is a very different sort of service when you bring a train through with 10 cars," Ivey said.

The impromptu electric substations were built in about two days, CBS 2's Steve Langford reported. Harrison's mayor Ron Belmont was confident that they would work.

"I am concerned but the engineers at Con Ed said it should not be a concern," he said.

Ivey said Con Ed will conduct tests to make sure power to the homes is not affected. MTA Chairman Tom Prendergast is aiming to use the additional power to run more trains by Monday morning, and he plans to announce additional means of transportations for commuters.

Since Wednesday, Metro-North riders have been living a commuter's nightmare.

"I actually don't understand how this happens – completely frustrating," one rider said.

"My reaction is it's a hell of a way to run a railroad," said Mike Gellert of Greenwich, Conn.

On Wednesday afternoon, a high-voltage feeder and its backup were blown at a Mount Vernon station, knocking out power to the New Haven line.

The quick fix would not completely eliminate miserable commutes for Metro North riders.

To get trains moving normally Con Ed will have to fix the Mount Vernon power station where the problem began. The utility said that could take at least another week.

"We're thinking we can have that energized if all the steps proceed as we have planned, by October 7th," Con Ed Sr. VP Timothy Cawley said.

"You can tell they are doing their best," a rider said. "But no matter what it's really bad because there's so many of us."

The pressure on the power company has also come from politicians and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

"This is a failure for one reason or another of a system," said Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy. "I don't know why or who or where, but I have 125,000 people whose lives are being disrupted because of that failure."

Malloy said Friday he told the transit authority and the railroad "in no uncertain terms'' that he expects a compensation plan quickly.

The governor told reporters that he's "more than willing to put the full power of the state of Connecticut behind that demand.'' But he later said he's not anticipating a court case.

Meanwhile, the MTA said it is not satisfied with the projection for lengthy outages either.

"The two to three-week time frame that we've been given for restoration of power is not acceptable to us," said MTA spokesman Aaron Donovan.

If the temporary substations work they would provide enough electricity for about 20-percent of the normal Metro North traffic along the affected line, which would bump to just 50-percent of regular traffic with diesel train service on the New Haven Line.

The utility and the railroad said that they would have news for commuters some time on Sunday.

Currently, trains are running on an hourly schedule.

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(TM and © Copyright 2013 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2013 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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