The intersection where Shariah Casper was killed last year has since been outfitted with ample saftey signage by the UTA.
The UTA made sweeping changes to the West Jordan crossing where Shariah Casper was killed in the days and weeks following the accident. Directional signs, mirrors and pedestrian fences were added. Sound walls were removed or shortened. Tactile pads and safety warnings were plastered along the ground. That intersection, Carpenter says, “is the single most scrutinized crossing in our system.” The line, which had been in a pre-revenue testing phase, was shut down for a month while the agency did a top-to-bottom safety review of the entire system and identified other crossings, like 2700 West and 2200 West, with similar configurations.
According to the Federal Railroad Administration, which conducted an on-site investigation of the crossing two months later, “There was a general, all-around failure to do a critical safety evaluation of the line prior to the start of testing.” The agency, part of the U.S. Department of Transportation, determined that, while the cause of the accident was Shariah’s “failure to heed the active grade crossing warning devices for motor vehicles,” the UTA contributed through the lack of pedestrian-specific warning devices and because of sight issues around the sound barriers.
Now, the UTA is moving forward with a total safety revamp. Many of the safety upgrades at the crossing at 3200 West and 8600 South will also be made at new crossings, as well as retrofitted at existing pedestrian intersections. Currently 59 TRAX and 25 FrontRunner crossings are protected by gates, flashing lights and audible signals, and another 53 run through signalized intersections. The new lines will add more than 70 new crossings. The total price tag, Goeres estimates, would run several million of the UTA’s $200 million budget.
But, says Goeres, outfitting the crossings with ample safety precautions is a fine line. “One of our biggest concerns is over-engineering,” he explains. “Any changes need to be made to increase safety, and you don’t want to make too many. You want to make sure there’s sufficient signage to get people’s attention, but if you put too many up, they stop paying attention.”
But signage and flashing lights and gates are only a part of it. Perhaps the grief of loved ones left behind, the pain of bystanders who witnessed a death and knowing that lives could be changed forever are the biggest teaching tools.
In April, ten months after Shariah was killed, Acacia turned to a Facebook memorial page—R.I.P. Shariah Casper—to talk with her cousin.
“Each day that I live without you is a day I sit wishing I was with you,” she wrote. “When I join you, we are going to repeat our wonderful day on June 8 up until the accident. And nothing will harm us because we will be angels. I miss you more than words can describe. I hope you are happy and watching over me and the family. We need you.”