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Although the Utah Transit Authority has been warning the public that the practice is unsafe, the Senate gave final passage Wednesday to a bill that would allow driving through railroad crossings as soon as guard gates rise — and before warning lights stop flashing.

Senators passed SB249 on a 26-0 vote, approving some House amendments. It now goes to Gov. Gary Herbert for his signature.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, said he pushed the bill because a constituent complained he received a ticket for going through a crossing after gates were rising, but before flashing lights stopped. Jenkins admitted he has done the same thing often, and said it should be allowed.

But UTA has been waging an education campaign for the past year to enforce the current law to wait for lights to stop flashing before crossing — including ticketing hundreds of offenders and placing signs explaining the law at crossings and on UTA vehicles.

David Goeres, UTA's chief safety officer, said last October that sometimes a second train from the opposite direction can re-trigger signals. Motorists that don't wait for the flashing to stop may find that partially raised gates quickly reverse and lower on their cars. Worse, drivers could crash into that second train.

People ignoring that law contributed to 246 broken crossing gates in 2013 along TRAX and FrontRunner rail lines, Goeres said. Repairs added up to nearly $250,000, or about the cost of operating one bus route for a year.

During the previous year, UTA Police issued 462 citations and 133 written warnings and distributed hundreds more cards explaining the law to offenders. Fines vary depending on the city where violations occur, but range from $100 to $300.