Angels Flight railway gets PUC safety OK

The California Public Utilities Commission has approved the safety certificate for the historic Angels Flight rail line in downtown L.A., nine years after a fatal accident closed the funicular.

In a letter to Angels Flight Railway Co., the PUC said that it had “no major safety concerns” regarding the rail line, which runs up and down Bunker Hill. The company has faced numerous delays in reopening Angels Flight.

John Welborne, head of a nonprofit foundation that is trying to reopen the funicular, said he was pleased by the PUC’s decision, calling it an important step forward. He said the group has been waiting for the PUC’s approval for nearly a year.

But he stressed that more work needs to be done before the funicular can once again ferry passengers. Welborne could not estimate when it would open.

In 2001, a car broke loose and sped backward for almost a block before smashing into another rail car at the bottom of the hill, killing an 83-year-old man and injuring seven others. Federal investigators concluded that faulty mechanical and brake systems, combined with weak oversight, were to blame.

The rail line was designed to connect downtown with the residential community on Bunker Hill. But when the city demolished that neighborhood as part of a 1960s redevelopment push, Angels Flight was left moribund. The funicular was revived in 1996 after years of effort by preservationists.