Engineers, Residents Concerned About Safety Surrounding New Expo Line

Engineers questioned the rail's criss-crossing intersections, but Vikay Khawani, MTA safety executive officer, said as long as drivers obey traffic signals, the crossing will be safe.

By Conan Nolan
|  Tuesday, May 1, 2012  |  Updated 9:13 AM PDT
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Vannessa Davis says a light rail line in her neighborhood will take some getting used to and raises concerns about safety on and off the platforms. USC Civil Engineer Najm Meshkati says grade crossings are an accident waiting to happen. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 30, 2012.

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Vannessa Davis says a light rail line in her neighborhood will take some getting used to and raises concerns about safety on and off the platforms. USC Civil Engineer Najm Meshkati says grade crossings are an accident waiting to happen. Conan Nolan reports for the NBC4 News at 5 p.m. on April 30, 2012.

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Engineers and residents are concerned about safety near the new Metro Expo Line, which opened this past weekend.

The much-anticipated line is an 8.6 mile link from downtown Los Angeles to USC and La Cienega/Jefferson via Exposition Boulevard.

Vannessa Davis lives a block away and said there’s a learning curve when it comes to its introduction.

“There has not been a train here for a long time, so it’s going to take some time getting used to it,” David said, adding that safety concerns also top her list.

The MTA has been working on a safety campaign in the neighborhood for a year.

“Neighborhood groups; we’ve gone to schools, senior centers, neighborhood watch … telling them how to be safe around the train,” said Barbara Burns, MTA traffic safety program manager.

While public education has been robust, there is the question of design. There are scores of grade crossings, including one intersection where Rodeo Road and Exposition Boulevard criss-cross.

The configuration predates the rail line, but USC civil engineer Najm Meshkati said it’s an example of designed-induced error.

At night or in bad weather, Meshkati said traffic at the intersection is an accident waiting to happen.

“We don’t expect trains to show up on our left side, and there are double tracks,” Meshkati said. “So, you may think you got by one train only to get hit by the other. Then there is the blind spots that may also be a factor.”

Vikay Khawani, MTA safety executive officer, said as long as drivers obey traffic signals, the crossing will be safe.

Still, Meshkati is critical of the lack of new signage warning of the train at Denker and Exposition, where students from Foshay Middle School oven cross.

Volleyball coach Edward Rauda echoed the concern, saying students often aren’t aware of their surroundings.

MTA officials said they have learned from previous accidents on other rail lines, but maintain that if people follow traffic lights, there will be no problems.

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