Report: Collapsed Mexico City Train Line Had Major Structural Flaws

A New York Times investigation uncovered years of government documents showing that officials ignored warnings about major structural flaws and poorly performed work on the train line before its fatal collapse in May.

June 23, 2021, 7:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


An investigation of the collapse of a Mexico City Metro overpass in May that killed 26 people by Natalie Kitroeff, Maria Abi-Habib, James Glanz, Oscar Lopez, Weiyi Cai, Evan Grothjan, Miles Peyton, and Alejandro Cegarra of The New York Times, "based on years of government records, interviews with people who worked on the construction, and expert analysis of evidence from the crash site," found "serious flaws in the basic construction of the metro that appear to have led directly to its collapse."

The section of the line that collapsed was built by Carso Infrastructure and Construction, a company owned by ultra-wealthy businessman Carlos Slim, and was the company's first foray into rail building. Engineers believe the collapse primarily happened because the steel beams designed to hold up the track were connected to a concrete slab for added strength by poorly welded studs. "The Times reviewed thousands of pages of internal government and corporate documents on the metro’s troubled history, finding more than a decade of warnings and concerns about safety before the fatal crash." Their inquiry found that "a frenzied construction process that began before a master plan had been finalized" and authorization of poor quality work and equipment–such as train cars that were incompatible with the track–"produced a metro line with defects from the start." Despite these well-documented structural flaws, city officials pressured the contractors to finish the job before the end of then-mayor Marcelo Ebrard's term, "underscor[ing] a pattern of political expediency and haphazard work as the metro was being built."

Engineers working on another Carso project, the 950-mile Tren Maya in Southern Mexico, have expressed concerns about similar problems on that line. "In hundreds of messages viewed by The Times, engineers have discussed construction progressing on Tren Maya without plans or details being approved, as well as unfinished designs."

Sunday, June 13, 2021 in The New York Times

Kids

Opinion: Aging Population, Declining Fertility Requires Long-Term Investments

Faced with the dire consequences of a one-two punch of aging populations and declining birthrates, one writer has suggestions for how policy can help ensure a better future.

August 9, 2022 - Financial Times

Fracking

The Surprising Oil Tax in the Inflation Reduction Act

President Biden has made reducing gas prices paramount in his administration, so it was likely a surprise to hear a Republican senator last Sunday warn TV viewers that a revived and increased oil fee in the climate bill will increase their gas costs.

August 15, 2022 - Bloomberg News

People gather on a street with no cars during the L.E.A.F. Festival of Flowers in the Meatpacking District of New York City.

The Tide Has Turned Against Open Streets

Once a promising development for advocates pushing for a less car-centric future in cities, the open streets movement has ceded significant ground to cars since the height of the pandemic.

August 14, 2022 - The New York Times

110 Freeway

Opinion: Los Angeles Transportation Plan Will Increase Driving

L.A. Metro’s plan to add hundreds of miles of new traffic lanes is projected to increase carbon emissions by 10 million metric tons.

August 18 - Los Angeles Times

Flooding at the Whitehall Street station, New York

How Extreme Weather Threatens Transit Systems

As weather events become more intense and unpredictable, transit agencies must take steps to protect their aging infrastructure from flooding, storms, and extreme heat.

August 18 - Next City

Close-up of car tailpipe emitting smoke

Federal Rule Would Require Regional Emissions Reduction Targets

A rule shelved during the Trump administration would require states and metropolitan areas to set targets for reducing tailpipe emissions, but advocates say it doesn’t go far enough to mandate results.

August 18 - Governing

Assistant or Associate Professor of Urban Design

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Professor of Urban Planning

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

Professor of Urban Design and/or Urban Planning

Harvard University Graduate School of Design

New Cityscape Explores Methods of Measuring Blight

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

2022 National Cohousing Conference

Cohousing Association of the US

New Updates on PD&R Edge

HUD's Office of Policy Development and Research

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Hand Drawing Master Plans

This course aims to provide an introduction into Urban Design Sketching focused on how to hand draw master plans using a mix of colored markers.