Fix Expo to Expo Board: Fire Thorpe

Posted by Fix Expo Team On October - 29 - 2009

On the heels of Rick Thorpe finally being kicked out of his job at MTA after a tongue lashing by County Supervisor Gloria Molina, the Fix Expo Campaign sent an email to the Expo Construction Authority Board of Directors (which is a subsidiary of MTA), with CCs to the MTA Board of Directors and elected officials who oversee the project, requesting the Expo Board fire Thorpe, CEO of the Expo Construction Authority for gross incompetence, failure to meet project goals, the rampant use of manipulating tactics, and a history of disregarding rail safety in minority communities.

The full text of the email is below.

Expo Authority Board Members:

I write on behalf of the Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line and with the unanimous support of the United Community Associations board to specifically request the immediate termination of Expo Authority CEO Rick Thorpe.

It was a relief to read that Mr. Thorpe resigned yesterday as MTA’s Chief Construction Officer on the heals of intense media scrutiny and specific disgust expressed by MTA Board Member and County Supervisor Gloria Molina regarding outstanding rail safety issues on the Eastside Extension light rail project.

It would be inaccurate to assume that any person who has watched the Expo Line closely over the past few years could not express even greater and more detailed criticism of Mr. Thorpe’s performance and total disregard for rail safety. I regrettably nodded my head in agreement as Supervisor Molina said at last week’s MTA board meeting that:

- She “didn’t trust [MTA] staff”
- Certain members of MTA staff, “only work for some board members”
- She’s had difficulty dealing with Mr. Thorpe to attempt to resolve the outstanding safety issues

Indeed, I nearly shouted out: “If that’s what you’re going through and you’re a board member, imagine what we must go through as a community in South L.A. on Expo.

In response to criticism regarding the lack of safety on the Eastside Extension, Mr. Thorpe has hidden behind the California Public Utilities Commission process, neglecting to mention that he has become a master in manipulating the CPUC.

The Pasadena Gold Line was built by Mr. Thorpe, and the Del Mar crossing was approved in a split decision, in which the dissenting Commissioners stated that Thorpe’s Construction Authority “has not provided full information about several issues to the Commission and other parties throughout this case,” (pg. 42) that there were “last minute changes” (pg. 43) and that “the CPUC should not reward [the] Construction Authority’s lack of disclosure on Del Mar by looking the other way at real safety issues.” (NOTE: The Pasadena Gold Line was originally titled the Los Angeles to Pasadena Blue Line, hence the reference in the decision to the Blue Line Authority).

The dissenting Commissioners proved to be correct in their assessment that grade separation was needed at the crossing to make it safe, as a horrific accident with an elderly driver occurred at the Del Mar crossing, ironically, on the opening day of CPUC Farmdale evidentiary hearing:

Additionally, other at-grade crossings that were contested before the CPUC and approved, resulted in even greater carnage:

Avenue 50:

and [others] in Highland Park:

It’s worth noting that while MTA continues to operate the deadliest light rail line in the country, the Blue Line, as of 2002 the second deadliest was the system built by Mr. Thorpe (San Diego).

Specifically, regarding the Expo Line, Thorpe hired a former Enron lobbyist, Sandra McCubbin, to attempt to unwind the decision by an Administrative Law Judge and Commissioner Timothy Simon, which was crafted after a two-year legal proceeding, and denied the Expo Authority’s street-level 55 mph crossing at Dorsey HS (video) that the former National Transportation Safety Board chairman of all-rail accident investigations in the country said was a catastrophic accident waiting to happen (pg. 7).

Of many conversations I have had with CPUC engineers, the one comment I will never forget came from a staffer who said, “You won’t believe how many times we get shot down from above.” While we may not know who within the CPUC does the shooting, we clearly know who supplies the bullets.

Indeed, astonishingly Mr. Thorpe continues to state that the original CPUC application for the Expo Line to run 55 mph past Dorsey HS is “safe,” even after the CPUC denied it, even after former MTA light rail operators have come out expressing strong opposition to it.

The question before the Expo Authority board, which is primarily made up of South LA’s elected representatives, is whether you will continue to turn a blind eye to this disturbing past, and ignore the warnings of a County Supervisor and previous CPUC Commissioners regarding Thorpe’s tactics. It’s a question of whether you will continue to force the public to ride in a car with a reckless driver or make him pull over and hand over the keys.

The Phase 1 project is nearly a year behind schedule, hundreds of millions of dollars overbudget, has failed to meet it’s local hire requirements, and now the criticism and tactics of the Expo CEO has grown to include a colleague, regarding rail safety of a crosstown light rail project built by Thorpe. Add Supervisor Molina to the former NTSB chief investigator, the public and former light rail operators.

Expo Board Directors Wesson, Yaroslavsky, Ridley-Thomas, Parks, Perry, O’Connor and Maslin: by allowing Mr. Thorpe to continue to serve as the CEO, your concern for student safety and competence as an oversight body and as elected officials is firmly in question.

Damien Goodmon
United Community Associations, Chair
Citizens’ Campaign to Fix the Expo Rail Line, Coordinator

Congresswoman Diane Watson
State Senator Curren Price
Assembly Speaker Karen Bass
Assembly Member Mike Davis
LA City Council Transportation Committee Chair Bill Rosendahl
MTA Board Members
LAUSD Board Members
Rick Thorpe, Expo CEO

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