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7Aug/12Off

Blue Line Record Is Not Good

One of the main reasons why the Blue Line was created was to promote transportation alternatives to the automobile. In the 22 years since, the Blue Line has an unsafe record.

With a picture of his dead son on his T-shirt, Luis Manuel Martinez told Los Angeles County transportation officials Monday that the Blue Line light rail is unsafe, that too many people have died along its tracks and that something needs to be done immediately.

English: Logo of the Los Angeles County Metro ...

English: Logo of the Los Angeles County Metro Rail and bus systems. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Family members said 16-year-old Luis Manuel Martinez, Jr. was killed June 12 when he was struck by a Blue Line train while walking near street-level tracks in Willowbrook. The accident, which family members say was near South Willowbrook Avenue and Stockwell Street, is still under investigation, but they say it is one in a series of recent fatalities along the 22-mile line from Long Beach to downtown Los Angeles.

With 22 accidents and six fatalities so far this year, officials say the Blue Line — one of the busiest light rails in the nation — is on pace to have more deaths in 2012 than any other year in its 22-year history — a considerable feat given the line’s checkered safety record of striking passing cars or pedestrians, or as a place where some go to commit suicide. Four of the fatalities this year were ruled suicides.

The Blue Line, which has 26 million riders annually, opened as the county’s first light-rail line in 1990. It averaged 50.9 accidents annually during the first dozen years of operation, but that number dropped substantially over the next decade with an average of 27.9 accidents annually.

In 1999, the line earned the dubious standing as California’s deadliest rail transit route as 10 people were killed and 40 others were injured in 50 accidents that year, most involving collisions with motor vehicles at street crossings.

Over the years, Metro has taken several steps to improve safety, including placing photo enforcement cameras at street crossings to discourage drivers from trying to race through intersections before a train can pass. Officials said the improvements contributed to a sharp decline in accidents.

The line had some of its lowest accident totals between 2008 and 2011, but “things have changed this past year,” according to county Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, a board member of the Blue Line’s operator, the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

The Blue Line task force created Monday by the Metro board will make its report in November. Officials also ordered the agency to do a better job of informing riders about accidents and breakdowns along its lines.

But officials Monday did not focus only on the Blue Line; they also discussed recent problems with the Expo Line, which some board members said was also a threat to safety.

Since June 2010, Metro and Expo construction authority officials have been trying to solve a track alignment problem in the Washington Boulevard and Flower Street junction near downtown Los Angeles, which is shared by Expo and Blue Line trains. Metro officials and state regulators say the flaw, if uncorrected, poses the risk of derailment for Blue Line trains.

Last month, the California Public Utilities Commission, which regulates certain rail operations in the state, ordered both agencies to replace a short section of track in the crossing that might be causing the problem. The commission acted after several attempts to eliminate the flaw ran into complications.

Metro board members also have called for hiring a nationally recognized track expert to evaluate the junction and make recommendations. Meanwhile, the agency’s inspector general has been investigating the rail crossing.

In a preliminary report released Monday, the inspector general’s office said it suspects that the problem might be due to improper widths of the track, the tight turn used by Blue Line trains that has caused a stress point and the overall alignment of the rails within the junction.

“As for the Blue Line, the number of issues we have had on this line … is alarming,” said Metro board Chairman Michael D. Antonovich, a county supervisor. But, he said, “we cannot look at these lines in isolation, or pit one against the other, we have to look at safety as a whole.”

If a loved one was the victim of wrongful death that was caused by negligence, it is important that you contact a committed and dedicated personal injury lawyer to help you decide if you should file a lawsuit. A competent and reputable injury lawyer can help you receive the compensation you deserve for your pain and suffering.