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UTA to start removing sound barriers on Mid-Jordan TRAX line

By KSL.com | Posted - Jun. 14, 2011 at 3:57 p.m.



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WEST JORDAN -- The Utah Transit Authority will not wait to start work to improve safety on a new TRAX line where a teen girl died last week.

Starting late Tuesday or early Wednesday, UTA is removing sound barriers at four intersections on the new Mid-Jordan TRAX line: 2200 West, 2700 West, 3200 West and Redwood Road.

Spokesman Gerry Carpenter says the sound barriers will come down first at 2200 West.

"The busier thoroughfares like Redwood and 3200 West, we need to go through the city and get proper permitting if we need to impose lane restrictions," Carpenter said.

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The work comes in response to the accident that killed Shariah Casper, 15, last week. She was crossing the new line at 3200 West when she was struck by a test train.

"There is some indication that the sound wall may have been a contributing factor in this incident, and it did cause some limited visibility at that crossing," Carpenter said.

The new line does not officially open to passengers until August 7, but test trains had been running on it in recent weeks. At that intersection, Casper's family said she was unable to see around the sound barrier to know that a train was coming.

In the crossing's original configuration, the sound walls ended so closely to the sidewalk, that a person standing just behind the yellow pedestrian "tactile strip," would not have been able to see beyond them to view an oncoming train.

From that position the girls would not have been able to see anything of the oncoming westbound TRAX train.

At the 3200 West crossing, sound walls will be removed from behind the residential property nearest the sidewalk where the girls were walking -- and possibly from behind even other properties as well, he said.

Nearby residents already have been notified, Carpenter said. "Overall, everyone was very supportive. They recognize the tragedy of the situation and the need to improve safety."

The height of a sound wall is measured from the "top of rail," as measured from the nearby track, so depending on terrain that can vary from 8 to 15 feet.

Carpenter said it has yet to be determined just how many sound wall panels will be removed at each location. That will be determined by ongoing evaluations at the sites. In some cases only partial panels will be removed — in others, the full panel.

Carpenter says more improvements may be coming, but they wanted to go ahead and make this change now.

"We launched a top-to-bottom safety evaluation of this line, and this is a first step," Carpenter said. "This is something that we identified that we could do immediately to improve visibility at those crossings."

Test trains have been put on a "safety stand-down" ever since the accident, meaning they are not running currently and won't resume until Monday at the earliest.

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Story written by Becky Bruce and Ladd Brubaker.

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