FAIRFIELD COUNTY, Conn. -- Some commuters were frustrated, travel to work was disrupted and highway traffic was reportedly heavy, but fears of chaos were unfounded as Fairfield County residents headed out Monday morning on the first work day since a two-train crash near Fairfield on Friday.
Commuters were streaming into the South Norwalk Train Station on Monday morning, but no problems had been reported by 7:15 a.m. Altered rail service appeared to be running smoothly.
The same was true at the Stamford train station, were people arrived by car and by bus to board trains.
Train service has been suspended between South Norwalk and Bridgeport since the crash, and Gov. Dannel Malloy said residents should expect delays and added congestion on Connecticut’s roads and rails for at least a week as a result of the accident.
Westport resident Steve Feingold changed his normal commute into New York City and caught the train from SoNo instead of his hometown.
“Let’s see how it goes, if the 7:05 is close to being on-time, I’ll be happy,” said Feingold. Sure enough, the train pulled up at about 7:07 a.m.
“I just missed the train that crashed on Friday, and I wasn’t affected over the weekend,” said Norwalk resident Hillary Jade. She was heading to work in Stamford Monday morning. “So far, so good today.”
Kara Palen of Norwalk was on the train that derailed Friday, but she had gotten off in Darien before the accident occurred. She drove down to Stamford on Monday to take the train to Port Chester, N.Y., and didn't notice much difference in her commute.
"It's not busier than normal," an MTA police officer at the Stamford train station said. Canine units were up on the platforms, and several officers were on South State Street and Station Place to direct traffic.
Chris Converse of Westport usually walks to his train station, but he was unable to find out for certain whether it would be running. He drove to Stamford with his neighbor, who works at UBS. "I had no idea what to do today." He was upset that the information wasn't clear. "It's very frustrating."
Bill Leimkuhler of Darien said many of the trains he saw coming in to Stamford were packed, and he was surprised there weren't as many local trains.
The highways were not as smooth. More than 20 miles of slow traffic was reported on I-95 south by 7:15 a.m. Monday, with backups from Exit 34 in Bridgeport to Exit 11 in Darien reported by the Connecticut Department of Transportation.
Delays were also reported on the Merritt Parkway southbound, with nearly 25 miles of back from Exit 53 in Stratford to Exit 36 in New Canaan, DOT said.
While most commuters were calm and appeared to be resigned to potential inconveniences, some were not happy about the parking situation at the SoNo station. By 7 a.m., the six-story garage and overflow lot were essentially full, and commuters were beginning to park around South Norwalk.
Commuters can use the Maritime Garage, across from the Maritime Aquarium at Norwalk, when the station lots are full. A free shuttle will run between the garage and the station every 10 minutes.
Additionally, any commuter who boards one of the city’s Wheels buses and shows a monthly Metro-North ticket for May will not have to pay that fare. The move is designed to encourage residents to use the bus instead of their cars to get to and from the station.
Norwalk Police Sgt. Stefanos “Steve” Kamanides said the department deployed about half a dozen officers at the station Monday morning and will do the same for the afternoon commute. Several Metropolitan Transit Authority officers were also on hand.
“Everyone’s doing their normal thing,” said Kamanides. Metro-North buses were transporting commuters from the Bridgeport station – and stations between Bridgeport and South Norwalk – to Stamford to catch trains. In the evening, buses will run from SoNo to Bridgeport, making the same station stops in between.
“I thought there would be more commuters, but we’ll see how it goes throughout the morning and evaluate from there,” said Kamanides.
For details of the Metro-North travel changes, click here.
Click here to sign up for Daily Voice's free daily emails and news alerts.