UDOT safety improvements to help prevent semi crashes on U.S. 89 near Bear Lake

Aug 25, 2023, 7:10 PM

GARDEN CITY, Utah —If you’ve never driven the stretch of U.S. Highway 89 leading to Garden City, you may not know that a steep drop is coming unless you’re paying attention.

“We’ve been very fortunate that pedestrians haven’t been struck by a runaway truck but we’re kind of running on odds now of when is it going to happen,” Thad Willis said.

He’s seen a few of those semis come speeding by over the years from his business Summit Pizza. He saw the most recent crash last June.

“We heard people yelling. My wife who is an EMT just followed it right down,” Willis said.

He, along with some other business owners agree every safety improvement will help.

“Every time we hear a truck come down, squealing its breaks to stop at the light, you get flashbacks of, ‘Oh I hope that’s not another truck coming through,”’ Burger Barn owner Austin Clark said.

His restaurant is right at the bottom of the hill. He said that scare in June was more than enough.

“I mean, every year it just gets busier and busier and so whatever we can do to make it so people can be safe,” Clark said.

The Utah Department of Transportation continues to look at ways to make this stretch of U.S. Highway 89 safer. UDOT most recently announced a wider shoulder that will give truck drivers a direct path to the runaway truck ramp and pulley system.

Willis is concerned that the ramp itself may be too high up on the hill.

The wide shoulder on U.S. Highway 89

UDOT most recently announced a wider shoulder that will give truck drivers a direct path to the runaway truck ramp and pulley system. (KSL TV)


“Where the catch trap system is now, so far up the canyon, the trucks might not realize they’re in trouble yet,” he said.

He’s also concerned the current brake check area comes too soon. He said a second brake check announced earlier this summer could help.

“We appreciate the effort of the state addressing it,” Willis added.

UDOT is also working on better signage for that runaway ramp and a social media campaign to try and educate drivers.

A road sign warns of the steep hill on U.S. Highway 89

A road sign warns of the steep hill on U.S. Highway 89. (KSL TV)

There have been four semi crashes in five years and Garden City Mayor Mike Leonhardt counted eight total semis that have lost brakes going down the hill.

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UDOT safety improvements to help prevent semi crashes on U.S. 89 near Bear Lake