Power failure delays MARC, Amtrak trains; holiday highway delays likely

By Liz F. Kay
The Baltimore Sun
Monday, December 20, 2010; 7:46 PM

The holiday week got off to a late start for some travelers Monday morning after a power failure caused delays for MARC commuters and Amtrak passengers.

And with construction continuing along Interstate 95 in Delaware, many highway travelers are likely to face delays this week, too.

"We're making the same recommendations as we did for Thanksgiving: Look for alternative routes, plan for non-peak times at night or early mornings," said Bob King, a spokesman for the Delaware Department of Transportation. He suggested that drivers consider taking the Bay Bridge as an alternative to I-95, depending on their destination.

On Monday morning, a southbound MARC train on the Penn Line ran into mechanical problems, along with downed overhead electrical wires, said Maryland Transit Administration spokesman Terry Owens. That caused delays to both north- and southbound trains, he said.

"Somehow a train got tangled up in the wires at a switch," said Christina Leeds, an Amtrak spokeswoman.

The 10-minute outage on two tracks affected three Amtrak trains. Power was restored at 8:03 a.m., and "some minor residual delays" were expected, Leeds said.

Amtrak schedules additional trains and adds cars to existing trains for the Thanksgiving travel period, but near Christmas seats are added only as needed, said spokesman Steve Kulm. So far, the heaviest days would seem to be Wednesday and Thursday, he said, and travel levels off after that.

He warned that passengers might encounter increased security in stations and on trains.

Anyone headed north on I-95 this week should expect the same construction delays seen at the Newark toll plaza in November, said King of the Delaware transportation department.

The turnpike toll area has been reduced temporarily from nine lanes to six as part of a project to address frequent backups there.

After major delays were reported on the day before Thanksgiving, Delaware suspended toll charges from 3 to 11 p.m. to expedite travel. But there has been no discussion of doing that again, King said.

Charlie Gischlar, a spokesman for Maryland's State Highway Administration, said drivers should check for traffic alerts at roads.maryland.gov before they leave. "Before you go, log on," he said.

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