Connecticut transportation chief advises legislature against measure replacing Metro-North

Industrials Associated Press

State Transportation Commissioner James Redeker cautioned legislators against replacing Metro-North Railroad as the operator of the New Haven line linking Connecticut to New York City.

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Sens. Toni Boucher of Wilton and Tony Hwang of Fairfield, both Republicans, have introduced legislation that would force the state Department of Transportation to put the contract out for competitive bids. Connecticut is midway through a 60-year contract, and Connecticut or Metro-North may seek changes this year, Boucher said.

Several legislators from southwestern Connecticut say their constituents are unhappy with slow, unreliable rail service and want a different contractor.

The Hartford Courant reports (http://cour.at/1vGmF7D ) that Redeker told the General Assembly's Transportation Committee on Wednesday that replacing Metro-North isn't practical.

Metro-North employs conductors, engineers, track maintainers, electricians, supervisors and senior managers to oversee operations of the New Haven Line and the Danbury, New Canaan and Waterbury branches, he said. There's no company in the country with the staffing and technical skills to take over that operation, he said

"The New Haven Line is the busiest rail line in the country," Redeker said. "It's probably the most complex service in the whole country. We have to be very cautious and careful."

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Boucher said she's concerned that state transportation officials have "been afraid to touch this."

"That's a very defensive position to take," she said.

Redeker said Connecticut officials and Metro-North President Joseph Giulietti have a good relationship and that Metro-North is making progress toward reliable on-time performance.

Competitive bidding to operate the new Springfield-to-New Haven commuter service will give state transportation officials a better understanding for possibly renegotiating sections of the Metro-North contract in the future, he said.

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Information from: Hartford Courant, http://www.courant.com