(AP) Broken electrical equipment interrupted rush-hour rail commutes in and out of New York City and snarled rail service as far south as Washington on Wednesday, and the problem could take weeks to repair, a utility said as it sought a power alternative for the trains.
The delays began when a high-voltage feeder cable failed early in the morning in Mount Vernon, N.Y., a suburb north of New York City. Another feeder that could have powered the trains was also out for equipment upgrades, said Con Edison, the utility serving the New York City area.
Tens of thousands of people in the densely populated suburbs north of New York City and into Connecticut use the Metro-North commuter railroad, the nation's second-largest.
On Wednesday afternoon, Metro-North said it would provide extremely limited service on hourly diesel trains that would make all local stops. The service accommodates just 10 percent of its regular ridership on the line between New York City's Grand Central Terminal and New Haven, Conn., and riders were urged to expect crowded stations and to find alternative service.
The broken circuit could take two to three weeks to repair, Con Ed said.
Metro-North said it was developing a Thursday morning train and bus shuttle schedule, and spokeswoman Marjorie Anders advised commuters to find another way into and out of New York.
"It will be crowded. It will be slow. Seek alternate means," she said in an email.
The delays had a ripple effect. Interstate 95 saw significant traffic congestion on Wednesday morning in Connecticut, where it runs near the railroad. Traffic eased somewhat by early afternoon from 20-mile backups to traffic jams a few miles long, the Connecticut Department of Transportation reported.
And Amtrak, which runs along the same Metro-North corridor, advised passengers that service in the Northeast was operating with "significant delays." Acela Express service was suspended between New York and Boston and service between New York and Washington was delayed.
If no alternative source of power is found, that could mean weeks of longer, more congested commutes.
Speaking at a Hartford news conference, Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy urged commuters to avoid Metro-North and carpool or work from home if possible.
"This is going to be a substantial disruption for a substantial period of time," he said, adding that service will be restored by Oct. 14, when the second electricity feeder was slated to go back online, but that he hoped that the trains would be running sooner.
"Folks, plan on long-term lack of service or being underserved," he said.
Irate passengers vented online and the head of a commuter advisory group complained that rail service was disrupted frequently over the summer for needed track work in New York. Wednesday's disruption, though not Metro-North's fault, adds to frustration among commuters, said Jim Cameron, a commuter advocate.
"It means commuters must have a plan B and a plan C," he said.
Associated Press writer Susan Haigh in Mashantucket, Conn., contributed to this report.