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Safety concerns over Expo Line junction in Los Angeles

May 21, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
There is growing concern about safety on the light rail line that connects downtown Los Angeles with the city's westside.

According to the Los Angeles Times, a serious design flaw could cause trains to derail around a sharp curve on a key section of the track. The problem is at the intersection of the new Expo Line and the Blue Line at Washington Boulevard and Flower Street.

The Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority said it made modifications to the track to keep passengers safe. Metro spokesman Marc Littman admits the design of the junction was initially flawed, but that it has since been repaired and is working fine.

"It was fixed - three modifications, plus we imposed a 10 mph speed limit [and] automatic train control. If the operator tries to go faster than that, it will automatically stop the train," said Littman.

Littman said the only issue outstanding is whether the tracks will cause extra maintenance problems. But Damien Goodmon, an activist with Fix Expo, which advocates for safety changes along the Expo Line, said the changes made by Metro are not enough to ensure rider safety.

"They need to go back and fix the crossing, as they initially said they were going to do, completely pull up the crossing and put a new one down," said Goodmon.

Metro said completely rebuilding that junction will cost about $1 million, but that's not the problem. It said the issue is that it would cause a major disruption in rider service.

"It's safe, it's safe. 'Safety is first' is Metro's credo. We would never put the public at risk," said Littman.

There is a special inspection program in place to keep tabs on the track.

An official with the California Public Utilities Commission's rail safety division said the CPUC is satisfied with the modifications, but that the junction needs to be re-inspected regularly and that those inspections must continue indefinitely.

"This monitoring program will enable the CPUC to continue to have confidence in the safety of the junction and ensure that the excess wear issue has been addressed," the commission said in a statement.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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