Angels Flight to Reopen by Labor Day

Closed since September 2013, the Angels Flight funicular will restart operations in 2017 through a public-private partnership.

Nearly four years after it shuttered following a derailment, Angels Flight is ready to roll again. Operators of the repaired and restored funicular said it will resume operations on Thursday, Aug. 31.

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The return of Angels Flight, which bills itself as the shortest railway in the world, comes six months after Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that a partnership between the nonprofit Angels Flight Railway Foundation, ACS Infrastructure and the engineering firm Sener would repair and reopen the funicular by Labor Day.

A Safe Future for Angels Flight

The newly formed Angels Flight Development Company spent a little under $5 million on the project, including installing an emergency stairway, according to Steven DeWitt, senior vice president for business development with ACS Infrastructure. Other work includes an overhaul of the motors, systems and safety features. The Sinai and Olivet rail cars, and the stations at California Plaza and on Hill Street across from Grand Central Market, have received a bright orange paint job.

The reopening is contingent on final approvals from the California Public Utilities Commission, which DeWitt expects to receive. He added that crews have been doing regular testing of the railways cables and brakes in recent weeks.

“People have worked very hard together to make sure it comes together and that safety is guaranteed,” DeWitt said.

The funicular was constructed in 1901 and closed in 1969. It reopened at its current location in 1996 (the original spot was a block north [this story original said 'south' instead of 'north']) to fanfare.

Tragedy struck five years later, when a problem with the drive system caused one car to hurtle down the track and slam into the other. One person died and seven people were injured.

Angels Flight remained closed for nine years amid repairs, legal settlements and the attempt to get a return to service approved by the CPUC. It finally reopened in 2010.

Angels Flight Cameo Is a No No

It shut down again in 2013 following a derailment; although no one was injured, firefighters had to help remove riders from the cars. A subsequent blistering report from the National Transportation Safety Board found numerous shortfalls in the operation and management of the railway.

The CPUC refused to allow Angels Flight to reopen until a variety of repairs and safety steps were completed, including the installation of an emergency stairway. During the years it was shuttered, the Angels Flight Railway Foundation still paid nearly $6,000 a month for maintenance and insurance.

Crews installed the walkway on June 26. DeWitt said they have also modernized equipment in the brakes and motors. Additionally, motion detectors were placed on the truss, and new closed-circuit cameras were installed. 

With the stairway in place and the other work completed, the CPUC's concerns have been met, according to Christopher Chow, a public information officer for the commission.

Christopher Rising, co-founder and president of Rising Realty Partners, which recently purchased One California Plaza, one of the office towers at the top of funicular, called Angels Flight a “California treasure” and applauded the return to service

“We think all Angelenos, visitors and our tenants should experience this iconic piece of our local history,” Rising said. “We are excited to have Angels Flight back online in Downtown L.A.”

The return to service comes with a price hike. One-way rides will cost $1. Angels Flight charged 25 cents when it reopened in 2001, and the price doubled to 50 cents in 2012.

The price can be reduced, however. DeWitt noted that Metro TAP cardholders will pay 50 cents.

Going forward, the Angels Flight Development Company will handle maintenance and operations. The company has a 30-year contract with the city.

nicholas@downtownnews.com