MTA: Improvised Power Boost On The New Haven Line Won't Help Much

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An official with the MTA says that even if Con Ed succeeds in sending extra power to the crippled New Haven Line, riders shouldn't expect more than the bare-bones service they're getting now.

That's because nothing resembling normal train service will return until a powerful feeder cable is brought back into operation. The cable failed early Wednesday morning, shutting down the line — except for extremely limited bus and diesel train service that the MTA continues to piece together. A back-up feeder cable, in the midst of a month-long upgrade, was already shut down. 

The upgraded feeder cable is supposed to be working by Oct. 14 — or earlier, if Con Ed can speed up the job. In the meantime, the utility is working on a temporary fix. Spokesman Bob McGee says workers are installing three electrical transformers near Harrisburg train station.

"Obviously, what we're focusing on now are the alternative solutions that will allow us to get some juice into the system sooner so that the MTA is able to accommodate more trains," he said.

The problem is that the downed feeder cable normally carries 138,000 volts. But the transformers will draw from the local residential grid, which contains only 13,000 volts.

The MTA official, who is familiar with operations on the New Haven Line, says the boost won't power very many trains. "It's chewing gum and baling wire," the official wrote of Con Ed's effort at the Harrison train station. "If everything works and it doesn't blow out every breaker, it still barely budges capacity."

MTA chairman Tom Prendergast and Metro-North president Howard Permut are planning to visit the new transformers on Saturday. Officials at the MTA and Con Ed say they don't know if the new equipment will be up and running in time for Monday's morning rush, or how many additional trains could be placed into service because of the power boost.