Repair of rail crossing guards cost taxpayers thousands

Posted at 10:11 PM, Mar 31, 2014
and last updated 2014-04-01 00:11:19-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Impatient drivers are costing Utah taxpayers hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to the Utah Transit Authority.

Last year, UTA had to spend about $250,000 to repair rail crossing guards after drivers had crashed into them.

“This is the highest we have had at UTA,” said chief safety officer Dave Goeres.

In the last few years, as the rail lines have increased, so have the costs of repairing them.

“We’re spending a lot of money repairing things that are caused by people running through, running into our gate arms every year,” Goeres said. “If a car hits it, it will break.”

Goeres is talking about the rail guards that go up and down before and after a train comes through.

There are 157 of them spanning from Ogden to Provo. In 2013, UTA had to make 257 repairs to them, revisiting some stops 32 times.

“We average about a $1,000 a repair. So, that was $257,000, or a little over a quarter million dollars, last year just to repair gates and mechanical devices,” Goeres said. “That’s about the cost of a local bus route for a year.”

It’s all because of drivers who refuse to stop, according to Goeres, who said they even spent thousands of dollars to put in warning signs in hopes of saving money down the line.

“This is our money. UTA is funded by local tax money,” Goeres said. “The money we’re collecting in our taxes is going towards repairing when we could put it towards something else.”

And if the messages on the road don’t resonate with drivers, Goeres is hoping that one will, convincing drivers to spend a few extra seconds on the road, waiting, rather than thousands of dollars on the tracks.

“I think it’s unnecessary. People should be responding appropriately and they should read the signs and follow the instructions,” said one motorist, who was stopped at 2100 South, waiting for the train to pass.

According to UTA, drivers can be fined $115 for running red lights at grade crossing stops. However, that penalty, doesn’t equate the cost in damage, typically.

“We’re spending money on stuff that people need to stop. They just need to stop, that’s it,” said another motorist.