WEST JORDAN — Residents of a West Jordan neighborhood rocked by tragedy almost two years ago are glad to see new safety measures under construction to make pedestrian rail crossings safer.
The Utah Transit Authority has begun work to upgrade pedestrian crosswalks at rail crossings along all of its commuter rail lines. Thursday, crews began construction at a crossing that was the scene of a pedestrian death that stunned the neighborhood just weeks before the trains officially began transporting passengers between the University of Utah and Daybreak on the Mid-Jordan Red Line.
Shariah Casper was struck and killed in June 2011 at a pedestrian crossing located near 3200 West and 8600 South. She had approached the track with a cousin and both had waited as an eastbound Mid-Jordan light-rail test train passed. Twelve-foot high sound walls may have contributed to Casper's difficulty in seeing the oncoming westbound train that hit her as she crossed in front of its path.
“With children crossing those streets, anything that helps produce safety measures and prevents kids from getting hurt like what happened a couple of years ago is helpful,” said Keala-Jeann Hoopiiaina — whose home sits directly adjacent to the rail crossing.
She said that some measures were taken in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy, “but you still have kids that don’t pay attention.”
“Teenagers and sometimes when you drive by you’ll even see an adult stand there and as soon as the train goes by — even if the gates are up or not — they will still cross,” she said.
Nearby resident Tricia Mandoriao said increasing safety would benefit the community.
“I’ve heard a lot of people getting in accidents,” she said. “I really don’t even cross the street (at the intersection). There is really nothing over there for me. If something needs to be taken care of, then (UTA) should do it.”
UTA is in the process of upgrading safety at all 160 pedestrian crossings “of this type” along all of its light-rail lines, according to spokesman Chad Saley.
“We have finished upgrading 70 of them so far and plan to have the remaining 90 crossings completed in about a year,” he said. The last of the intersections on the Mid-Jordan line should be completed in May, he said.
Crews will be installing “Z-gates” at the intersections, Saley said, that will force pedestrians to turn in both directions “so that they look up and down the track before they cross.”
“It’s just an added safety element to make the system consistent everywhere we have those types of crossings,” he said. Some crossings will have swing gates that require pedestrians to "open them away from the tracks."
“So you’re forced to stop and open the gate before your can walk through,” Saley said.
Upon completion of the Red Line improvements in May, work will begin on Blue Line safety upgrades, he said. Through April 4, the southbound lane at the West Jordan intersection will be closed at 8600 South from 9 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. Vehicles will be detoured to Old Bingham Highway, then onto 4000 West.