State, city and school officials stress safety on new Sandy-Draper TRAX line

Published: Tuesday, June 4 2013 6:35 p.m. MDT

The Utah Transit Authority conducts a full-scale safety exercise in partnership with the Unified Fire Authority on Tuesday, June 4, 2013, at 1131 E. 12400 South, Draper.

Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

DRAPER — It's a scenario the Utah Transit Authority and Unified Fire Authority hope they don't have to respond to but still have to be prepared for just in case.

On Tuesday, emergency crews responded to a TRAX train that hit a van where the rail crosses Pioneer Road (about 12400 South and 1100 East). The passenger of the van was ejected and pinned under the train.

But on this day, the scenario was a training exercise. The new Draper light-rail line is not yet open to the public. The "trapped person" was really just a mannequin. But both UTA and UFA officials said it was a great opportunity to practice emergency rescues on the new stretch of TRAX line.

Test runs have already begun on the 3.8-mile extension of the UTA Sandy-Salt Lake (Blue) Line from the terminal at 10000 South in Sandy to Pioneer Road (12400 South) in Draper. The line is scheduled to officially open to the public on Aug. 18.

The new TRAX line comes amid protests of residents who began raising concerns about seven years ago when plans for the line were announced. Residents noted the new TRAX line ran through residential areas and past at least one elementary school and a park. Their concerns ranged from safety to noise to pollution.

The line will run near Crescent Elementary School, 11100 S. 230 East. TRAX trains going through the intersection at 11000 South are on a straightaway and traveling at a high rate of speed. Many large signs have been posted by UTA at the crossing warning of "danger" and "high-speed trains."

Officials also have made efforts to educate the many children who attend schools in the area and walk over those TRAX rails every day.

Lisa VanWagnen recently was hired by Sandy to act as a temporary crossing guard at the intersection and to remind students about the dangers of the new TRAX line.

"They didn't have us out here before because the kids were used to crossing the tracks without any trains," VanWagnen said. "But even with just the testing and the training here and there, they want to make sure when the kids are crossing, they're aware a train could come by. I'm teaching them that even though you can't see the train, you're listening, you're looking, and if the lights are down, you still want to wait."

Taylor Robison, 11, is a sixth-grader at Crescent Elementary. He said the school has given students several warnings about the new TRAX line.

"Yes, we've had lots of them," he said Tuesday while walking his bike across the rail. "They've had assemblies for them. And this guy came and was telling us all about the safety and rules. … They're just telling you how to walk safely, never ride your bike going across."

"You always stop (for the crossing arms), no matter what," added Brody Bauer, 9, a fourth-grader at the school.

New TRAX platforms have been built at 11400 South, 11800 South and Pioneer Road.

Rick McKinney, UTA rail safety administrator, said the new line does not present any challenges different from other portions of the railway.

"A lot of that stuff is pretty much taken care of in the design stage," McKinney said.

The biggest key to safety, he said, is continuing to educate the public, including posting more warning signs and getting out and talking to children in the schools.

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