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UDOT Working On ‘Runaway Truck’ Solution After Garden City Crashes

GARDEN CITY, Utah – Officials with the Utah Department of Transportation said they plan to begin working on a runaway truck solution near Bear Lake after two large trucks lost their brakes and barreled through the same intersection within a week of each other, bulldozing several storage units.

Those crashes came after a driver was killed last October after another large truck blew through the intersection, better known as Raspberry Square.

“We’ve always known there was a risk,” said Kris Peterson, UDOT’s project development director.

Officials would like to put in a runaway truck ramp on U.S. Highway 89 descending into Garden City, but a typical ramp like a similar one in Parley’s Canyon is just too large, and there’s no incline for them to work with near Bear Lake.

However, a UDOT engineer got a close-up look at a new kind of vehicle arrest system in Wyoming and got to see it in action last year.

The innovative ramp has a series of cable fences that catch the truck in a narrow concrete chute.

The cable spools out, absorbing the energy of the controlled crash over a couple of hundreds of feet. It causes far less damage to the truck and driver than a traditional runaway truck ramp.

“It will hit into that cable, which acts like a net,” Peterson said. “The driver can get out and walk away.”

UDOT has begun a similar approach to make the intersection of U.S. 89 and SR 30 safer.

Officials plan to customize the design, purchase the property necessary to build the arrest system and hope to get started on the $3.2 million project sometime next year.

In the meantime, UDOT is working with Garden City and the U.S. Forest Service to install a brake check area at the top of the hill. Trucks will be required to pull over and check their brakes to make sure everything is working before driving down the hill.

Until last October’s crash, which killed the driver and destroyed a sporting goods store, a major crash had never happened at the intersection before. Now, two more have happened within the last week.

Peterson said they had already talked with Garden City about a solution and were already scouting solutions for Powder Mountain Road before that first crash 10 months ago.

They’d even scheduled a meeting with engineers with the Wyoming Department of Transportation to look at an innovative vehicle arrest system for trucks descending from Teton Pass into Jackson Hole.

“The crash occurred the day before we were going to Wyoming,” Peterson said.

They were eager to get a closer look at and spent some time right in the middle of the runaway ramp.

Then the group backed a few hundred yards away from the ramp structure as they wrapped up their meeting before a noise caught their attention. They looked up the road and saw a large truck barreling down the road.

“We heard a truck coming around the corner that didn’t sound quite right,” Peterson said. “We saw the brakes were smoking and he was going way too fast.”

Seconds later, the truck drove into the ramp and stopped.

“We just heard metal on metal, and we saw a dust cloud,” Peterson said.

They ran down to see how the trucker was doing, and he was able to walk away from the crash.

“He didn’t think he was going to survive the trip down the canyon,” Peterson said.

A few minutes after the dust had settled, Peterson realized how close they were to being involved in the crash.

“We realized how lucky we were that we weren’t in there when he hit the ramp,” he said.

A truck hits that Wyoming ramp about once a year, he said. So, they considered themselves lucky to see a full-scale test.

There are already two vehicle arrest systems in place in Wyoming and several others in other states.

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