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Students tell Union Pacific to upgrade deadly crossing

About 50 Fremont High School students walked out of school this week and headed to a train crossing where Union Pacific Railroad officials listened to concerns about safety.

Principal Gary Reed said he gave the students special permission to skip classes for Monday's meeting, which also involved parents, residents and officials from the Utah Department of Trans-por-tation."If we had room, we'd have all 1,800 (students) out here," Reed said.

The group carried a petition with 4,100 signatures calling for UDOT and Union Pacific to install cross arms at the busy intersection, which is now only marked by flashing lights.

On June 21, two local teens, Nathan Phillips and Tyson Murray, were killed at the crossing at 12th South and 3500 West when the vehicle in which they were traveling collided with two trains passing in opposite directions.

Investigators determined that Phillips, who was driving, saw the slowly approaching train from the west, but was unaware of that another train was approaching from the east at approximately 65 mph.

"We just decided to do some thing about those railroad arms for our friends," said Scott Day, one of the students who helped organize the meeting.

The students aren't stopping at the meeting and the petition, however. They plan on raising $25,000 for the cost of the cross arms by holding a turkey shoot or a rodeo, said Fremont junior Troy Bertagnolli, who said Phillips was his best friend.

Phillips' mother, Barbara, who lives near the crossing, said she counted 238 vehicles pass by her house between 7 and 8 a.m. one day last week. Many of those were teens driving to Fremont High School, she said.

Dick Rauschmeier of Union Pacific said the crossing ranks 186 on a list of 2,000 the company is examining for cross arms in Utah. He said the review process for prioritizing the projects has certain criteria, including sight clearance, traffic flows and speed limits on the roads.

Lillian Witkowski from UDOT's Traffic and Safety Division advised the students and parents to be patient and let the process work.

"You're not going to see this happen overnight," she said. "It may take 12 to 18 months or more."