It was a friendly warning to commuters, couched within good news.
On Sunday, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy and his transportation chief stood by the tracks at Union Station in New Haven to announce a long-planned, $10 million power upgrade for Metro-North Railroad's New Haven line starts Monday.
That was also the warning.
The 16-day project to de-energize and replace old transformers in the Cos Cob section of Greenwich is similar to the work that was underway last September at a Mount Vernon, N.Y., substation when an electrical failure paralyzed regional rail service for days.
The message Sunday was that three parties with a stake in the Cos Cob upgrades — the state Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transportation Authority (Metro-North's parent agency) and Connecticut Light & Power — have applied the lessons learned from the Mount Vernon debacle.
"This is a very different approach," Malloy said.
Sunday's announcement came one day before a Monday news conference scheduled by members of the Connecticut General Assembly's Transportation Committee. Those legislators plan to reveal a letter they are sending to the federal transportation secretary and other key federal agencies requesting help in improving Metro-North.
In New Haven, Malloy said the parties involved in the Cos Cob project began with the assumption there would be a problem, and they have developed detailed project management and contingency plans. Malloy said the work is being done in a shorter time frame and there are backup plans for powering the trains or — in case of "catastrophic failure" — busing commuters to their destinations.
After the Sept. 25, 2013 power failure, Metro-North scrambled to activate its diesel trains and buses, but advised riders there would only be room for about one-third of the normal passenger load.
"Clearly, there was an unbelievable lack of planning," Malloy said.
James Redeker, Connecticut's transportation commissioner, said his agency did a "top-down review" ahead of the Cos Cob project.
"The president of the MTA and I and CL&P signed off on this plan," Redeker said.
Representatives with Metro-North and CL&P were present in New Haven, but did not speak.
In a joint statement afterward, however, John Kesich, Metro-North's senior vice president of operations, said, "Because of lessons learned ... during a serious disruption to New Haven Line service last fall during a power upgrade (at) Mount Vernon, the work at Cos Cob is being done in stages and a comprehensive contingency plan has been developed."
James Cameron, a longtime rail commuter advocate, summed up Sunday's news conference.
"We're going to fix something, but we're not going to do it the way they did it in New York," Cameron said of the approach to the Cos Cob project. "Watch this — I'm going to clean my gun but not shoot myself in the foot."
Meanwhile, legislative leaders are asking the federal government to intervene in helping to solve problems with Metro-North service.
"We need to get to the bottom of what the problem is and find out what the heck is going on," House Speaker Brendan Sharkey, D-Hamden, said last week in advance of Monday's news conference.
Members of the General Assembly's Transportation Committee plan to hold an informational hearing in Hartford in coming weeks, and to invite Metro-North's new president, Joseph Giulietti, who takes the helm Feb. 10, to explain the railroad's plan to improve service.
"They will be in the hot seat. They are walking into a serious situation," said state Sen. Toni Boucher, R-Wilton, and a ranking member of the transportation committee.
"I'm not asking (Giulietti) to come," said state Rep. Tony Guerrera, D-Rocky Hill, and co-chairman of the transportation committee. "It's his obligation to come."
Pressed for what he wants Metro-North to do, Guerrera said, "They are the experts. I want to hear his game plan. We want measurable goals. When a new CEO comes in there are goals that are measured over a certain amount of time."