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Major Power Outages In New York City, San Francisco Come Amid Worries About Failing Infrastructure

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- Major power outages caused chaos on mass transit systems in both New York and San Francisco Friday, with parts of both cities' systems still suffering ongoing outages or delays into the pre-weekend afternoon commute.

The outages occurred on the heels of an Infrastructure Report Card that gave poor grades to both mass transit and power systems across the country.

In New York, platforms were packed and riders were stuck underground in the dark when an outage in Midtown Manhattan backed up trains all over the city Friday morning. Gov. Andrew Cuomo said a Con Edison equipment failure knocked out signals, escalators, communications and lights at the station.

Hundreds of riders were packed inside a D train when it got stuck in a tunnel just short of the subway stop at Seventh Avenue and 53rd Street after the signals lost power around 7:30 a.m. An E train had one car already in at the station platform when the outage happened. Riders were able to get out through that car.

The outage backed up trains all over the city.

Con Edison brought in temporary generators as crews made repairs. Hours later as the evening rush began, people were greeted by yellow caution tape at 53rd and Seventh.

A Con Edison spokesman said one of his electrical lines triggered the outage. CBS2 asked the spokesman why it happened.

"We know that there is some equipment on our side of the street that needs to be repaired. Why it failed, you know, we don't know yet, but we'll find out. We have to get to the bottom of what would cause the equipment failure," spokesman Michael Clendenin told CBS2's Tracee Carrasco. "Equipment does fail from time to time, and what you have is service lines and fuses and other equipment that serves the city's subway system – specifically in this case the signals – and it goes through that train station."

A continent away in San Francisco, a power outage forced the closure of the busy Montgomery BART Station, and also knocked out traffic lights and cable car lines. The Montgomery station is a key stop all BART lines coming into the city.

People were stranded in elevators and operating rooms were shut down, CBS San Francisco reported.


The outage was blamed on a fire at a power substation in San Francisco's Tenderloin District. Pacific Gas and Electric spokesman Barry Anderson said the power outage began with the failure of a circuit breaker at the large substation.

"We had equipment failure, the catastrophic failure of a circuit breaker," said Anderson. "When it failed, it created a fire in the insulation surrounding the breaker…. Something went wrong with the breaker to cause it to explode."

San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee said of the 88,000 customers who lost power, 58,000 has been restored by 2 p.m. Pacific Time. The remainder would be restored by 5 p.m. Pacific Time

Numerous tweets Friday noted that New York and San Francisco were experiencing major power outages in the same day – some with snide remarks, others with fear.

Earlier this year, the American Society of Civil Engineers rated the nation's energy system with a D+, and the mass transit system with a D-.

The organization's 2017 Infrastructure Report Card noted that much of the U.S. energy system dates back before the turn of the 20th century, and most electric transmission and distribution lines were constructed in the 1950s and '60s with a now-exceeded life expectancy of 50 years.

"Without greater attention to aging equipment, capacity bottlenecks, and increased demand, as well as increasing storm and climate impacts, Americans will likely experience longer and more frequent power interruptions," the report warned.

Meanwhile, the Infrastructure Report Card also said chronically underfunded mass transit systems have resulted in aging infrastructure and a $90 billion rehabilitation backlog.

The report noted that American transit systems carried 10.5 billion passenger trips in 2015 – up 33 percent from 1995. But the report said 10 percent of the nation's city bus fleet and 3 percent of the nation's rail fleet are not in a "state of good repair."

The report specified that older heavy rail systems in several cities – including New York and San Francisco – are "confronting the challenges and consequences of rider demand, years of deferred maintenance, and chronic funding problems."

On energy, the report called for a federal policy that acknowledges future demands, and for policies that allow for the construction of new transmission lines.

On transportation, the report called for more investment at all levels of government to fix the deferred maintenance crisis, and also called for reliable federal funding through a higher motor fuels tax.

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