(Midvale, Utah – November 2, 2011)
Utah Transit Authority management was in damage control mode after probes from the Salt Lake City media led to the revelation that crossing gates involved in a near-fatal accident Monday were down for 14 minutes, not the “three to five minutes” originally claimed.
A witness to the scenario that led up to and included the serious injury to tow truck driver Julio Mendosa, 40, who is still hospitalized in stable condition, said that he used records of cell phone calls he made while stuck in the crossing gate-controlled traffic to prove the time discrepancy to The Salt Lake Tribune.
Various technical excuses were offered in defense of UTA’s signal integrity failure, but the most insensitive came from UTA Spokesperson Gerri Carpenter.
“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,” said Carpenter, adding that while 14 minutes may seem like a lifetime to wait for crossing arms to come up at a TRAX crossing, “The gates were functioning properly, they were protecting the crossing the way they should.”
On Thursday, the Operation Lifesaver, Inc. railroad industry-controlled program announced that UTA would be among several recipients of rail safety education grants as part of OLI’s partnership with the Federal Transit Administration.
OLI President Helen Sramek said “Even as rail transit remains among the safest modes of transportation in the United States, continued growth in ridership heightens the importance of safety education in our communities.”