Au contraire..

And the results are in….

The previously mentioned ODOT inspection (full report courtesy of the Oregonian) was released late last week, and ODOT found no concerns for public safety. Some say now that this undermines the union’s credibility; on the contrary I think it strengthens it.

I didn’t personally take any of the damage photos that the union had circulated, but y’all may have noticed I take a lot of pictures for the blog. Before ATU even circulated those track damage photos and any kind of ODOT inspection was on the radar, I had independently taken photos of some of the trouble areas.

Lloyd Ctr 1 Lloyd Ctr 2

These are both just west of the Lloyd Center platform, where switches 17A,  17B, and 17C allow trains to diverge into the Doubletree Siding. I took both of these pictures on January 26, 2013. The damage here necessitated a slow order (that’s what the yellow cone is for), and the damage to the rail and surrounding pavement is pretty obvious.

How long was that track in this state of disrepair? Well here’s the same spot, July 30, 2012. At that time, I’d taken these partially to show the damage, and partially just as an example of wayside flags in case I ever needed it for the blog. You can also see how the pavement around the rail in the above picture from January is visibly worse than it had been in July, indicating that little to no repair work was done on this during that time period.

Now these switches in particular weren’t shown in the ODOT report, but nearby switches  (15A and 15B) west of Lloyd closer to 9th Ave were pictured in the ODOT report from March 5, 2013:


There had been a flurry of activity of repair work on the rails once the inspection was announced. ODOT was even able to tell that the welding in the 15 A switch had been done recently.

While the 17A switch that I took photos of in July 2012 and January 2013 wasn’t pictured in the ODOT report, here’s how it looked as of March 10, 2013:

March 10 17A

You can see that the holes in the pavement around the rails have been filled in, again clearly showing that this problem had been there for months and only was addressed when the inspection was announced.

The only other pic I got recently was this at 11th Avenue on February 12, 2013.

11thAve WB

I took this facing north and looking down on the westbound track at 11th & Morrison.

And what the inspectors saw:


This picture is taken facing west – my photo of the same area was taken on the left side of the first switch you see (you can see where the brick/cement/cobblestone pavement meet). Similar to the switch on Holladay, the holes in the area surrounding this switch have been repaved as well.

So I’m really struggling to see how this is supposed to undermine the union’s credibility. Apparently TriMet thought these issues were enough of a concern to patch these areas up before the inspectors came. I mean, the above pictures show the Holladay track damage going back as far as last July and still an issue at the end of January (and yes it was like that later than the end of January, but in fairness that’s the most recent I’d been there to take a photo) – if this was just “routine maintenance” and not last minute patching, wouldn’t it have been addressed sometime in the last 8 months and not immediately prior to the inspection?

Doesn’t the fact that these areas were in disrepair for months, and that TriMet saw fit to make last minute repairs right before the inspection just serve to strengthen the union’s concern that the alignment was not properly maintained?

16 responses to “Au contraire..

  1. Its too bad the general public doesn’t see this. The contrast is very telling, and indeed shows TriMet attempting to simply patch an ongoing problem rather than do the right thing, and completely repair the issues.

    • Agreed. I post here which is the best I can do to get the word out, people can feel free to link to it or circulate it. I’m not trying to act as ATU’s unofficial mouthpiece, but at the same time I think it’s appalling that TriMet will rush to fix the hotspots before an inspection, then act as if the union was pulling these concerns out of thin air. Clearly they had some agreement that these areas needed addressing given the timing of when they were fixed… it would be nice if everyone could act like adults about safety issues and not say this was just posturing to draw attention away from contract negotiations.

  2. Hmm, that’s lovely. Asphalt clearly isn’t the best way to lock rail down. All this aside, have they checked EVERY LRV for any interlocking issues after that door incident? ODOT didn’t inspect that.

  3. Usually where you see pavement heaved it usually means the rail is broken near the heel block and the rail is pumping or the waterlogged rotten ties are pumping or both. Fresh new asphalt is only a bandaid. It will look ugly in no time again because the problem is still there.

  4. Years ago, when they had rails that were bending out during the hot days. I forget the exact name for the effect. But it’s something any railroad would fix the minute it was noticed. But Trimet was dragging on with “scheduled” maintenance and merely set the timeline for fixing this at “I don’t know when”… then I wrote a blog entry (which I need to recover from my backup still and restore to Transit Sleuth) that had a faux paragraph at the beginning detailing the deaths and injuries from a derailment. The repairs all of a sudden happened about a month later. I got over 10k unique views (not single views, actual different instances hitting it) on that entry.

    Trimet is very reactive, the fact of the matter though, is that they have to be. EVERY transit agency is that way because of the way the system is structured. It won’t change, ever, as long as the US continues to keep things alive with discriminatory funding models & showing massive subsidy preference for automobiles. This is the truly sad part.

    Overall though, the system – even those spots you showed, are resoundingly safe. A derailment in the high speed sections would be really bad – these are all pictures of extremely low speed sections. Most of the time at frogs & such they poke along anyway…

    But I digress, the point is, statistically the streetcar is still the safest part of the system (if you consider it part of the system), the light rail is the next safest and buses are a distant 3rd. If the union wants to bitch about safety (especially safety issues that Al M or other users have found, NOT the union itself) they really ought to dig up something more solid than the safest mode is not safe. That just sounds like bullshit. Go look at any other light rail system in the country, especially those on the east coast. Look at hose the systems are used in Boston, etc. Hard core, slammed into curves, etc. Trimet is so ginger with the light rail system it’s almost kind of confusing.

    Again, the system is safe. Cars are safe. Planes are safe. The greatest danger to people is other people being inattentive – so stay on top of your situational awareness and don’t drive, board or otherwise ride anything that you notice is piloted by inattentive drivers.

    The real sticking point the Union *could* legitimately attack, if they really want to turn this into a knock down drag it out fight (as Trimet management seems to want to do too) is to bring up the irresponsible financial structures that have Trimet under the gun. That would be a much more legitimate attack to distract from the massive health insurance issue than saying the system is unsafe.

    Anyway… cheers, happy riding.

    • The bending of the rails in the heat is called “sun kink” and it is very much a problem all over our system every year, to the point where it is actually standard practice for us to issue system-wide slow orders for temperatures above 90F and even more so above 100F. And then the areas with the really bad kinks have their own slow orders. I can think of several spots and even a few stretches where these are regular and very noticeable issues, and they will probably always simply be worked around rather than repaired until the track is replaced with new track with it’s own problems which it will probably bear for all of it’s life, too.
      Can you tell that I have absolutely no confidence in this company to run this railroad like a railroad?

  5. Spin spin spin, that’s what Trimet excels at.
    This time in collusion with ODOT.
    You did see that ODOT refused to give Bruce Hansen a copy of the inspection report. They said he had to file a public records request.
    The smoking gun which proves that Trimet and ODOT are in bed together

  6. I like how they used gravel in the second to last picture.

    And in the second picture, that doesn’t look like too good a joint in the second rail (or first straight one) from the bottom.

    If only the inspection wasn’t announced so far ahead of time (I realize they need to have the TriMet personnel be available for it)

    I’ve also heard mentions of welding being done at or near one of the rail/rail crossings around Pioneer Courthouse. And when they were having the switch issue out near to the airport the other day, a supervisor said that a train “coulda, woulda picked the switch”. I’ve been wanting to find the audio clip of that.

    Supposedly they’re going to get some “state of good repair” funding to address things like this. Not saying it should wait that long.

    • Also, aren’t those holes around the 17 switches in either the crosswalk or intersection for 11th Ave where people have to walk or drive on them?

      And Double Tree isn’t really a siding according to the rule book since it only connects at one end.

      • Yeah, both of my pics are taken from crosswalks.

        And even if Doubletree isn’t technically a siding, that’s just what it’s been called. Or just “Doubletree” for short…

  7. I think maybe it is time we had an aggressive and very public campaign to bring these defects and their lengthy delays in repair schedule to light.
    I’m thinking photos or video of defects when they are discovered as well as documentation on when and to whom they are reported, then weekly follow-up photos or videos to show progression of each problem until it is fixed.
    As for the publicity part, I’m thinking a centrally located collection of the documentation, with people putting links to it in public places and sharing it on social media and the like.

  8. They put another band-aid on 2 of the switches again this week. 17A where Doubletree stub exits to the westbound main, as well as the frogs where the eastbound entrance track crosses the westbound, and 113A where Jeld Wen special events track rejoins the westbound main. Looks terrible right now, but I’m certain the mounds of asphalt sticking up will quickly be worn off and start sinking.

    • Don’t forget the Steel Bridge span… slow order’s gone, but I don’t remember seeing anything changed on it. (in fairness, not to say it didn’t happen over the weekend or something, but still)

      • I actually had to ask what the speed limit was when they lifted that since it was like that for more than a year. I still catch myself slowing down to 5 for it.

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