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Report: LA rail line woes could cause derailments
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LOS ANGELES (AP) — California officials say the recently opened light rail line that connects downtown Los Angeles with the city's west side must be reinspected because a key section contains a serious design flaw that could cause trains to derail, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The section in question is a downtown junction that links the Expo Line, which carries passengers to the west side, with the Blue Line, which takes riders through South Los Angeles to Long Beach.

The Times reported Sunday that Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority records show Blue line trains could derail at the junction, which contains a sharp curve. They could also go off the tracks farther down the line because of equipment damage they could suffer negotiating that turn, the newspaper said.

About 140 train trips are made along the Blue Line each day.

MTA officials say they have modified the junction to make it safe.

"We believe we've solved the safety issues," said Vijay Khawani, the MTA's executive officer of corporate safety. "If we see trends that are negative, we will notify the Public Utilities Commission and identify a plan to address those problems."

Michelle Cooke, who heads the California Public Utilities Commission's rail safety division, said the PUC is satisfied with those modifications for now but that the junction needs to be reinspected regularly and that those inspections must continue indefinitely.

She said the special inspection program is required because "non-standard" repairs were made to correct the design flaw.

The PUC required such inspections in exchange for allowing the Expo Line to open last month.

The Times said the junction's tight turn involves a design that had never been approved for MTA passenger travel before and that agency officials had urged the independent contractor who built it to replace it after they saw it was causing excessive wear to the rails, as well as to the wheels of Blue Line cars rolling over those rails.

But rebuilding the junction would have cost at least $1 million and disrupted Blue Line operations, so modifications were made.