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Crossing arms at crash site were down longer than reported

By Andrew Adams | Posted - Nov. 3, 2011 at 8:00 a.m.

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MURRAY -- Utah Transit Authority now says the crossing arms at the site of a TRAX train-versus-tow truck crash Monday were down far longer than it first reported.

UTA told KSL Thursday the crossing arms had effectively stayed down for 14 minutes. Monday, a spokesman said the arms were down for six minutes.

Technically, the six minute time was true. Spokesman Gerry Carpenter said the gates lifted six minutes prior to the accident. However, they were only up for 15 seconds after being down eight minutes prior to that.

"The gates were functioning properly, they were protecting the crossing the way they should," Carpenter said. "Unfortunately this train stopped at Fashion Place West, was holding the gates down."

The gates were functioning properly, they were protecting the crossing the way they should.

–Gerry Carpenter, UTA

Carpenter said it is normal protocol for the crossing arms at the intersection of 6100 South and 300 West to lower when a train pulls into the Fashion Place West station. It is 1,500 feet from the intersection, and Carpenter said trains stop briefly and leave the station at a high rate of speed. UTA data showed the average crossing arm "down" time in that scenario is one to two minutes.

Three southbound trains passed through the crossing during the 14 minute time span, Carpenter said.

"Unfortunately we had that human behavior component where people got impatient and chose to go around the crossing guard and that's really what we're struggling with," Carpenter said.

People will wait so long and then think there's not a train coming.

–Robert Mahoskey

Witnesses said Monday several cars went around the crossing arms before the tow truck. Driver Julio Mendosa, 40, was badly injured. His company had told KSL doctors were optimistic about his recovery.

Neighbors told KSL Monday they had regularly observed cars driving around the crossing arms, and expressed concern about a possible accident.

Robert Mahoskey - who lives a couple of blocks away but passes through regularly - said Monday he had called UTA once about the problem, and police dispatch another time. "People will wait so long and then think there's not a train coming, and when there is a train coming, they get hit, almost hit," Mahoskey said.

Carpenter said there had been just two calls since January about the length of time the crossing arms are down and drivers' unsafe activity.

UTA is warning drivers to respect what the crossing arms mean - that a train is close; it is approaching, and likely approaching quickly.


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