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Published June 16, 2011 1:01 am

New TRAX lines bring new hazards
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

The death of a 15-year-old girl hit by a train at a crossing of the Utah Transit Authority's new Mid-Jordan TRAX line last week should alert people across the Salt Lake Valley to what will be an unfamiliar hazard to many of them.

Two new light-rail lines will open Aug. 7. They will be a welcome addition to Salt Lake County's transit system, but drivers and pedestrians along those lines must learn new precautions if they are unfamiliar with the trains.

Because TRAX trains are electrically powered, they are relatively quiet. You can't count on hearing them approach. They also accelerate quickly and can travel up to 65 miles per hour on long stretches of open track.

For that reason, people on foot who are about to cross a rail line always should look both ways and should assume that a train could be coming from either direction at any time. Trains can come from both directions simultaneously, or nearly so, and one train can obscure another.

That was a factor in the terrible accident last week. Two girls watched as a test train coming from one direction passed, and thought the coast was clear. One of the girls stepped forward into the path of a train coming from the other direction before she realized the danger.

Flashing lights and a gate alerted drivers on the opposite side of the street, but no such gate across their path warned the walking girls. Obviously, UTA has a duty to provide additional warning devices for pedestrians at this and similar crossings.

Test runs of trains along the Mid-Jordan line have been halted while UTA re-evaluates safety.

In the meantime, portions of sound walls which blocked the view down the tracks at the crossing at 3200 West at about 8400 South in West Jordan, where the accident occurred, will be removed. Similar alterations will be made at three other crossings.

UTA has been working in 15 schools near the Mid-Jordan line and three schools near the new West Valley City line to teach students train safety. Fliers and auto-dial phone calls have alerted parents.

On the West Valley line, drivers will have to learn to share the road with trains. On the Mid-Jordan line, where the trains will operate in their own rights of way, pedestrians and drivers will have to be vigilant at crossings.

Experience shows that when new lines open, there is a rash of accidents until people become familiar with the new hazard. We hope that last week's death will warn people to take extraordinary care around the new TRAX lines.




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