State regulators: Expo/Blue Line junction safe despite design defect

Expo Line Test

Kevin Ferguson/KPCC

The Exposition Line train at the La Cienega/Jefferson station after finishing a test run. A defect had threatened to derail trains along the curving intersection at Washington Boulevard and Flower Street, where Expo and Blue Line cars diverge.

A defect had threatened to derail trains along the curving intersection at Washington Boulevard and Flower Street, where Expo and Blue Line cars diverge.

“Based on our assessment of the situation right now, we believe it is operating safely,” said Michelle Cooke, head of the California Public Utilities Commission rail safety unit.

Cooke said L.A. County Metro worked in the last couple of years to fix an alignment problem that caused wear to the track along the junction. However, now the state is inspecting the system because of Metro’s so-called “non-standard” repairs to the problem.

“It really actually doesn’t have a lot of impact on safety as a stand-alone matter," said Cooke. "Here, the reason that the non-standard characteristics were put into place is because the standard design wasn’t working at that particular intersection.”

The state required the inspection procedure as a requirement to open the 8-mile Expo Line last month. Authorities say they’ll continue to monitor the system indefinitely.

"If the wear patterns were to reemerge such that it ... introduced a safety problem, then one of the potential solutions would be replacement," said Cooke. "And at that time we would communicate to Metro what our belief is and what would be the safest solution."

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