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Crisis management

Published May 21. 2013 4:00AM

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy excels when it comes to handling a calamity and, unfortunately, he has had far too much practice at it.

While Friday's Metro North commuter train derailment in Fairfield and subsequent service disruption does not match the scale of some of the other crises this governor has dealt with in his first term - a tropical storm, a superstorm, freak blizzard, the horror of Sandy Hook - Gov. Malloy's reaction showed he is well practiced in dealing with such matters.

The governor was quickly in front of the cameras Friday, providing assurance someone was taking charge and that planning was beginning for the commuter disruptions that would follow in the coming week. As the weekend progressed the governor struck the right balance. He discussed contingency plans, but added just the right agree of urgency to persuade those who had alternatives - carpooling, working from home, staying in New York City until the line was repaired - to seriously consider taking them.

"We would literally have a parking lot (on the highway)," if every commuter decided to drive into work, warned the governor.

On Monday morning things were going about as smoothly as could be expected. Bus service to move commuters around the disabled section of track was busy. While traffic on Interstate 95 was heavier than normal, it appeared numerous commuters had taken the governor's recommendation to find alternatives to the highway.

While many deserve credit for developing contingency plans over the weekend, people have greater confidence in knowing someone is leading the effort, and Gov. Malloy played that appropriate role.

As for the accident itself, it is a wonder that there were no deaths when the two electrified trains traveling in opposite directions, both estimated to be going 70 mph, collided after one of them derailed. There were several serious injuries among the roughly 700 people aboard the trains.

The incident focused attention on the vulnerability of the rail system in the Northeast corridor. With no redundancy, the damage to the rail lines will not only shutdown the Metro commuter trains for several days but also interrupts Amtrak service, which utilizes the same set of tracks.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating and focusing on a fractured section of rail that may have caused the accident.

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