September 23, 2008
Delivered by Damien Goodmon, Coordinator

We in the Fix Expo family have closely followed the catastrophic Metrolink accident in Chatsworth with deep pain, and we can only offer our condolences to the victims and their families.

The deceased were human beings who other human beings loved and needed.

In an op-ed published last Friday in the Daily News – which you have before you - we cautioned that solely focusing on actions of the train conductor distract us from discussing other contributing factors in the accident such as the technology and board policies, indeed our politicians rail-safety cost-benefit analysis.

For that reason we applaud Supervisor Antonovich for offering the Metrolink safety motion that will be discussed at Thursday’s MTA board meeting.

We at Fix Expo have been working on the issue of rail safety on the Expo Light Rail Line under construction in our South LA community. We have identified among our many opinions that we hold equally high concern for the safety hazard that the nearly three-dozen street-level crossings pose.

We have been fighting with you all requesting additional resources in South LA for life-saving grade separation.

To date we have received no support from any member of this board regarding even the most problematic street-level crossings on the rail line in front of 3,400-student Foshay Learning Center at Western and 2,100-student Dorsey High School.

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We came to you with the community organizations and you refused to change course.

We came to you with the LAUSD and you refused to change course.

We came to you with the UTLA, Parent Collaborative, and Neighborhood Councils and you refused to change course.

So I come today to bring you excerpts from the CPUC hearing testimony of an international rail safety expert – Major Russ Quimby.

Russ Quimby is THE international rail safety expert with impeccable credibility – a 1974 West Point graduate. In the 22 years he was at the National Transportation Safety Board he was the Investigator-in-Charge and/or Chairman of the Mechanical, Track, or Operations Investigation groups for all severity levels of railroad or rail-transit incidents, accidents and disasters.

He is the originator or major collaborator for over 157 NTSB adopted recommendations.

If Maj. Quimby hadn’t retired from the National Transportation Safety Board in 2007, he very likely would be the Investigator-in-Charge of the Chatsworth tragedy.

Here is what he’s said regarding the Farmdale crossing just 10 feet from Dorsey HS where over 700 students walk across the tracks in the 15 mins afterschool in surges up to 108 per min:
“[T]he proposed crossing at Farmdale Avenue…poses a higher risk of a catastrophic accident.”

“By ‘catastrophic accident,’ I mean an accident involving fatalities and/or injuries to a large number of people. As proposed, the at-grade Farmdale Avenue crossing creates the notable risk that a catastrophic accident may well occur under one of several different scenarios.”

Quimby then goes on to describe one scenario where a train hits a car and the car is lodged into the holding area where hundreds of children would be standing and/or the train derails. Another involves a car being hit by a train, rupturing the tank and fuel spraying onto children standing in the holding area. The third involves a combination of the two.

In the January LA CityBeat when saying why the Farmdale crossing must be built at street level, Supervisor Yarslavsky said, “The goal is to produce a product that your critics will come back to you and say, ‘You were right, we were wrong.'”

We fight at Fix Expo because Supervisors we don’t want to hear you say to us in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years after many have died, “The rail safety experts and community were right, we were wrong.”

We implore you Supervisors to Fix the Expo Line. Prevent tragedies. Save lives.