A design flaw at the junction of Metro's Blue and Expo lines just south of downtown L.A. is classified as a maintenance issue but not a safety risk, Metro officials say. This comes in response to a story from the Los Angeles Times in which the publication cites experts' testimony in saying the problem with the track could cause train derailments.
The portion of the track in question is where the Blue line makes a sharp turn, and there appears to be excessive wearing on the track as well as on some of the cars' wheels. Taking passengers from downtown L.A. to Long Beach on a 22-mile course, the Blue Line makes 87,000 trips a year and has about 26 million riders.
Mac Littman of Metro said they spotted this issue over a year ago and since then, have welded metal to the area to reduce the amount of "shimmy" for trains on the light-rail line. He reiterated that the excessive wearing is a maintenance issue that they will have to address and monitor, but not a public safety concern. He went on to explain that trains crossing the junction go through extremely slowly -- at 10 miles per hour or less.
The design of the junction and the gravity of its turn is a type never before approved for passenger trains, the L.A. Times reported earlier this year, and the track manufacturer, Nortrak, said they did not approve of modifications made to the junction.
Today, Littman reiterated that the turn is an operational issue but not a derailment risk and said that on Friday, Metro is planning to re-weld the area in question. If they continue to see accelerated degradation of the track they may begin to look for a more permanent solution. Earlier this year, officials suggested replacing the entire junction -- a project that would cost around $1 million and according to Littman, inconvenience Blue Line riders for an extended period of time. For these reasons, they'll continue to inspect the track twice a week, do ultrasound testing and re-weld the area when need be.
Littman said that Metro's bottom line is "safety and to manage our costs" and added that if the track wasn't safe, they wouldn't be allowed to use it. Theoretically, he said, if Metro didn't do any maintenance or monitoring, the problematic track could pose a safety risk over time -- but that would be the case for almost any light-rail line or car that went unattended.