State safety regulators have ordered stringent inspections of a downtown Los Angeles rail junction for the newly opened Expo Line because of a serious design flaw that poses an increased risk of train derailments, it was reported Monday, May 21.
Officials of the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority insist the intersection of the region’s newest light rail service and the older Long Beach Blue Line at Washington Boulevard and Flower Street is safe for now because of small modifications to the tracks, according to the Los Angeles Times.
But the junction has presented significant safety issues and requires a special inspection program because of “non-standard” repairs made in an effort correct the problem, Michelle Cooke, who oversees the California Public Utilities Commission’s rail safety unit, told The Times.
The extra inspections, which will continue indefinitely, were a condition of commission approvals to open the first 7.9 miles of Expo Line last month.
“So far, we have confidence in it,” Cooke told The Times.
MTA records cited by The Times show the junction as built is defective and presents potential maintenance and safety issues, including a heightened risk that southbound Blue Line trains could derail in the sharply curving intersection — or elsewhere along their route — because of equipment damage.
About 140 trains trips a day are made on the Blue Line, one of the nation’s busiest light rail systems, with 26 million riders annually.
The junction with its tight turn is a design that has never before been approved for MTA’s passenger rail operations, according to The Times. The track intersection also does not conform to standards recommended by a national rail engineering group that sets design and construction guidelines for the industry.