California state regulators order Metro to replace track along Expo Line in downtown LA

Expo Rail

Ashley Myers-Turner/KPCC

California regulators order Metro to replace a length of track where the Expo and Blue lines merge, but Metro is saying the line is perfectly safe.

Los Angeles County Metro officials say they want California regulators to clarify details about a state order to replace a problematic section of track along the Expo Line in downtown Los Angeles.

Some safety experts say the rail segment at Washington Boulevard and Flower Street could cause a train to jump the track. Trains make a sharp turn at the intersection, where the Expo and Blue light rail lines merge.

Experts worry that Metro’s attempt last year to stop wear and tear on the train wheels by adding a piece of metal to the track doesn’t cut it. The California Public Utilities Commission wants the agency to replace that portion with track that can support trains as they roll through.

Meanwhile, Metro leaders maintain that the track is safe. Metro spokesman Rick Jager says that while they'll cooperate with the state, they still want to work out "a clearer, more definite definition in terms of what [the state is] exactly asking for."

The state has given the transportation agency until next month to map out a plan for fixing the problem.

Jager says train passengers don’t have to worry about a derailment. He emphasizes that thousands of times trains have traveled at less than 10 miles an hour through this junction with no problems.

“The California Public Utilities Commission oversees the railroad industry in the state of California," says Jager. "They would not have allowed us to open up the Expo line if they would have thought it was unsafe. We would not have opened up the Expo line if we thought it was unsafe.”

The issue’s not a red flag for riders like Gredorio Vallidare who says that the Expo's still "fairly new, so I don’t have worries about it."

Vallidares says he’s more concerned about what he describes as the rickety Blue Line, the closer it gets to Long Beach.

The state also says that there are glitches in Metro’s automated safety system that’s supposed to warn operators of any hazards or dangers along the track. Metro officials say they’re fixing the problem.

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