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Originally published May 20, 2013 at 4:39 AM | Page modified May 20, 2013 at 11:38 PM

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Easier travel ahead for Conn. commuters

Commuters facing long delays after a train collision disrupted their route along Connecticut's shoreline can look forward to easier traveling.

Associated Press

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BRIDGEPORT, Conn. —

Commuters facing long delays after a train collision disrupted their route along Connecticut's shoreline can look forward to easier traveling.

Rail service from Connecticut to New York City, along with Amtrak service between Boston and New York, was expected to resume by Wednesday morning's rush hour on one of the nation's oldest and most heavily traveled roadways.

Connecticut lawmakers plan hearings on the crash on the rail network they say is in need of extensive improvements.

Members of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee said they have been briefed by state transportation officials over the years about the hefty investment Connecticut needs to make to fully upgrade the commuter rail line, including a couple of 100-year-old bridges that need to be replaced.

"It's like anything else, you know," said Rep. Tony Guerrera, co-chairman of the committee. "You can have a brand-new car and it runs great, but if the roads are awful, with potholes going up and down, what good is it?"

The Metro-North crash at rush hour Friday evening injured 72 people, including one who remained in critical condition Monday. It snarled commutes for roughly 30,000 people who normally use the train, forcing travelers to navigate a patchwork of cars, trains and buses.

For Gary Maddin, the drive from his home in Milford, Conn., to the Bridgeport train station normally takes 20 minutes. On Monday, it took an hour. Then he had a shuttle bus and a train ride before he got to his destination, Grand Central Terminal in New York.

"It's a lot," he said. "It's a nightmare just to get into the city today."

Gov. Dannel P. Malloy said resumption of rail service is "tremendously good news."

Some commuters used a jury-rigged alternative that is to continue Tuesday: A shuttle train ran between New Haven and Bridgeport, where a bus connection to Stamford circumvented the accident scene, and finally customers boarded a train for New York.

Others drove themselves, and state officials nervously watched heavy traffic on two major arteries in southwest Connecticut, Interstate 95 and the Merritt Parkway.

But transportation officials were pleased that area highways were not as choked as they feared, Malloy said. He said commuters heeded his warning over the weekend about the prospect of highways becoming parking lots if all 30,000 of the usual train riders drove instead.

"Today went exceedingly well," the governor said. "People listened to us. Many people stayed home or worked from home."

Backups on the Merritt Parkway, a secondary route through Connecticut, were less than on an average Monday, and I-95 was only slightly more jammed than usual because of fog, he said.

Crews have worked around the clock since Saturday, and track rebuilding has progressed quickly, officials with the Metro-North railroad said.

Federal investigators arrived Saturday and were expected to be on site for seven to 10 days. They are looking at a broken section of rail to see if it is connected to the derailment and collision. Officials said it wasn't clear whether the rail was broken in the crash or earlier.

The last major collision involving Metro-North occurred in 1988 when a train engineer was killed in Mount Vernon, N.Y., when one train empty of passengers rear-ended another, railroad officials said.

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Associated Press writers Susan Haigh and Stephen Singer in Hartford contributed to this report.

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