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State orders MTA to replace flawed section of Expo Line track

State orders MTA to replace flawed section of Expo Line track
State regulators have ordered officials of the new Expo light rail line to replace a flawed piece of track that experts fear could trigger a derailment and to fix an automated safety system that has not worked properly since the line opened in April.

The California Public Utilities Commission directed local officials to replace a short length of track at Washington Boulevard and Flower Street where the Expo Line and Blue Line merge near downtown Los Angeles.

Officials with the Metropolitan Transportation Authority say the tracks are safe.

But they acknowledged that twice in the last few months, they have failed in their attempts to solve an alignment problem by welding extra metal at a place where train wheels must glide from one set of tracks to another. Metro officials have noted in reports that the flawed alignment presents a risk of derailment for southbound Blue Line trains if it is not fixed.

Emory J. Hagan, director of the PUC’s consumer protection and safety division, wrote to Metro late last week to order the repairs.

Hagan’s directive also states that the automatic train protection system for the Expo Line has not worked as designed and violates conditions set by the commission in order to open the first 7.9 miles of the $930-million project. There has been a periodic loss of signal communications between Expo trains and the automated system, which is designed to warn operators of hazards and prevent accidents. The lapses have caused trains to automatically stop as a precaution, causing delays.

Neither Metro nor the construction authority were told to halt or restrict train operations through the junction.

Hagan sent the directive Friday afternoon to Art Leahy, chief executive of Metro, and Richard Thorpe, chief executive of the Exposition Metro Line Construction Authority.

“We have outreached to the Public Utilities Commission,” Leahy said. “We want to get a more precise description of their needs so we can have an effective response for them... We will repair this so we don’t have a problem.”

RELATED:

Flawed Expo Line track poses detrailment risk

State regulators call for inspections of Expo Line

Breakdowns and repairs plague Metro's Blue Line

-- Dan Weikel

Photo: A light rail train travels along track near downtown Los Angeles. Credit: Michael Robinson Chavez / Los Angeles Times

 
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