Judge Orders Expo Line Backers to Remove Street Level Crossing

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L.A. Metro's proposed Expo Line hit a speed bump yesterday. At a hearing of the California Public Utilities Commission, a judge ordered the light rail line's builders to take the design of one street crossing "off the table." More on the story from KPCC's Brian Watt.

Brian Watt: Construction's begun on the Expo Line from downtown Los Angeles to Culver City. The agencies building it wanted to lay its tracks at street level near two public schools in South Los Angeles. Rick Thorpe of the Expo Line Construction Authority maintained that the design for those street crossings is safe, with pedestrian and vehicle gates sealing off the intersections when a train passes.

Rick Thorpe: Twenty-one seconds before a train arrives, all the gates go down, all the mechanisms, the flashers, the bells, all the stuff to warn people that the train is approaching is fully down.

Watt: The L.A. Unified School District and neighborhood groups called the street level design unsafe for students at the two schools, Dorsey High School and the Foshay Learning Center. They argued that the train should run above the street or below it. Damien Goodmon is president of the United Communities Association.

Damien Goodmon: We can have light rail. It just has to be built right. When you're coming by a school where 700 kids flood out in 15 minutes, you have to grade separate the tracks.

Watt: The two sides were settling in for at least a week of testimony in a hearing of the Public Utilities Commission. On the first day, administrative law judge Kenneth Koss stopped the hearings in their tracks and ordered the two sides back into negotiations. He said the Expo Line's builders had submitted their own evidence that it is possible to separate the grades at the crossing near Dorsey High School.