The BlogJam

Southwestern Connecticut traffic updates from the staff at Hearst Connecticut Media Group

Kid’s school project suspends Metro-North service

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UPDATE:

The package has been identified as a school project constructed at nearby Tomlinson Middle School.  The owner has been identified.  The child inadvertently left the item in the vicinity of the bridge with the intent of returning to retrieve the school project.  The account of what transpired has been confirmed.  It has been determined that this was an unfortunate accident and there was no malicious intent.

Case closed

Metro-North service has been restored in Fairfield after a suspicious box with a smiling face with clock hands was found shortly after 5:30 AM.

Police said the box with the painted face was first spotted on the Unquowa Road bridge over the railroad tracks by a Department of Public Works employee on the street-sweeping team about Friday morning.

The DPW worker alerted police, who agreed the box looked “suspicious” and notified MTA and State Police, who dispatched a bomb squad to investigate.

The image on the box resembles the robot Bender in the animated science fiction sitcom “Futurama.”

The image

The image on the box resembles the robot Bender in the animated science fiction sitcom “Futurama.”

The box forced Metro-North to suspend service through Fairfield for more than two hours. There were some delays of up to three hours into Grand Central Terminal in New York. Shortly after 10 AM, trains were running on or close to schedule.

Access to lower Unquowa Road and the downtown Fairfield train station was blocked off as a safety precaution. Commuters were forced to gather along the downtown stretch of the Post awaiting the all-clear signal.

After the State Police bomb squad arrived on the scene about 7:30 a.m., it was determined the box was empty.

After service resumed, there were still delays of up to two hours.

Metro-North spokesman Aaron Donovan says the suspension started at about 6:15 a.m. Friday in both directions. He says trains were stopped before they get to the Fairfield station area.

More than 30 minutes after service was shut down, Metro-North sent out its first alert at 6:57 AM: “New Haven Line service is temporarily delayed for trains traveling through the vicinity of Fairfield station due to Police Activity.  More information will  be provided as it becomes available.  Please listen for announcements at your station.”

While Metro-North didn’t have anything to do with the box, some commuters still blamed the railroad.

“I don’t defend Metro-North any more,” Joe Clyne, a Fairfield commuter for 16 years, said as he sat on the steps of Tomlinson Middle School overlooking the chaotic scene on the Unquowa Road bridge. “I used to say that Metro-North was better than the Long Island Railroad – not anymore.”

Commuters have been faced with some kind of a delay every week caused by all kinds of issues — weather, power outages, a defective bridge, and now a suspicious package, he said. Commuters are not getting the service they deserve.

“Commuting isn’t cheap – and they never give us a rebate or refund. We’re not getting the service for the money we spend.”

Clyne intended to wait out the delay, but was considering asking his son to drive him to Stamford where the trains were still running Friday morning. “I do need to get to work today,” he said.

Another Fairfield commuter, Scott Adams, said that he was resigned to waiting for the train Friday morning, no matter how long it took. But he certainly was not happy with Metro-North service.

“We’re really long-suffering here,” he said. “It’s horrible. It’s worse than ever.”

Some commuters with destinations between New Haven and New York have even more problems than New York-bound commuters, according to Katy O’Reilly, who was waiting at the Southport station for a train to her job in Greenwich. She and other commuters with “intermediate stops” are often forced to get off the train in Stamford whenever the trains are late running into New York, she said. “It’s miserable. All they worry about is their on-time status for New York. We get the shaft quite often in addition to all the problems everyone else has,” she said.

James Marren, of Fairfield, said at 7:30 that he had no plan at the moment for getting in to work. “We haven’t been told anything, but I have to get in. I can’t blow it off.”

Ken Pastone, of Fairfield, was working his cell phone. “I’m trying to arrange a ride; that’s how I plan to get in.”

Andy Georgiades said that he takes the train every day to his job at 125th Street in New York City, “but unless they send a bus soon to take us to Stamford (where trains are running into the city) I’m not going to make it.”

It was a too much for Jim Lancaster, of Black Rock in Bridgeport, who had arrived early for his 7 AM yoga class at the studio down the street.

He pointed to several classmates, waiting with rolled up mats under their arms. “I hope we have class today,” he said.

After a few cell phone calls ricocheted across the busy street, Lancaster was mellow again.

“We’re having class at the beach,” he said. “I’m going to the beach on this beautiful day.”

At the Stamford train station, Amtrak customer Jacqueline Lenihan was supposed to get onto a 7:47 AM. Train to New London to catch a ferry to Block Island at 10 AM.

Nearly an hour later waiting on an eastbound platform with no train in site, she seemed to have no trouble facing up to the reality of her train’s 70 minute delay.

“I think I’m missing my ferry to Block Island,” she said. But, Lenihan was feeling good natured about the delay and walking on to the 3 PM. ferry instead. “People have real stuff going on. I’ve got Block Island,” she said.

Another Amtrak customer Greg Violante, from Harrisburg, New York, got to the station at 7:30 a.m. when it was running amok with harried commuters trying to figure how how to get to work.

Violante, 19, was headed to Providence, Rhode Island, said, “It’s a little inconvenient. This place was a mess at 7:30, you couldn’t even walk through it. I hope they get it straightened out soon.”

By 8:30 a.m. In Stamford, trains were moving west to Grand Central Station and the platforms were regularly being cleared of commuters.

At the Cos Cob station in Greenwich, Maxwell Rosenthal waited 10 minutes for his train inside the station. He said he’s always surprised when his train is on time.

He’s OK with waiting for a suspicious package to be checked out, but said  “I can’t stand it if it’s late because of weather or power outage. The cost we pay for our ticket is to make sure they don’t break down for weather or power.”

Isa Goldberg waited 15 minutes in Greenwich.She says she hears the trains in Europe are very punctual, but cause she’s an intern it’s not as important for her to be on time.

Despite all the problems, many commuters say they still would rather take a risk with Metro-North than drive to work.

“The traffic is terrible. I’d rather be an hour late to work than sit in traffic,” Katy O’Reilly said.

Compiled from reports by reporters Frank Juliano, John Nickerson, Anne Semmes, Genevieve Reilly, Gretchen Webster and Digital News Editor Jim Shay.

 

Detectives are seeking the public’s help in identifying an armed robber who held up a Wood Avenue restaurant Thursday evening.

The Subway sandwich shop, at 1552 Wood Ave., was held up by a white or Hispanic male at approximately 7:30 p.m. The suspect approached the counter near the cash register and began inquiring about a job. The employee behind the counter was giving the suspect information when the suspect pulled his hand out of his pocket, gesturing that he had a gun, and demanded money.

The suspect had a gray and white, non-skid sock covering his hand.

The suspect fled with a small amount of cash.

Categories: General
Jim Shay

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