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The Utah Department of Transportation unveiled a newly constructed truck escape system which is meant to serve commercial motor vehicle operators navigating a challenging intersection.
The truck escape ramp, which opened Oct. 8, is located on U.S. Route 89 in Garden City, where the road descends a steep hill and faces a T-intersection. In the past, the location has been a challenge for truckers who have lost control of their brakes at the intersection. Garden City is located on the shores of Bear Lake, which straddles the border of Utah and southeast Idaho. U.S. 89 snakes through Logan Canyon, a scenic area popular for hiking and camping.
New to Utah, the containment device employs a catch-net cable system to arrest runaway trucks. The system involves a chute containing a series of cable nets. A fast-moving truck enters the chute and the cable nets unspool before it, slowing the vehicle.
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UDOT Project Manager Thomas Roylance said this mechanical system differs from the typical model of runaway truck ramps, which normally feature gravel beds that slow trucks down.
“Ultimately, [this] was a ramp that cost less to build and took up less property,” Roylance said. “We’ve started with something that’s kind of innovative to Utah. We don’t have this type of ramp anywhere else in Utah. Learning and understanding the different parts and pieces of this ramp was pretty exciting for us.”
According to UDOT, the Garden City area has seen an increase in runaway truck crashes in the past two years. The first major brake failure incident, which occurred in October 2018, resulted in a trucker’s death after he barreled into a sporting goods store.
The cable system is located near the end of the steep downhill portion of U.S. 89, a safe distance away from intersections and driveways situated farther along the route. It is designed to give truckers a straight section of road and plenty of distance in order to see the ramp and steer onto it in the event of an emergency.
The entrance to the runaway system. (Screenshot via Utah DOT)
Garden City Mayor Mike Leonhardt said he is grateful to see the system finished. In addition to improving safety, he said it also looks attractive to visitors coming to Garden City.
“My hope is that truckers will use it,” Leonhardt said. “Aesthetically, it looks really good coming in. We are a tourism destination. Tons and tons of people come down this canyon to look at the scenery, to look at Bear Lake [and] to recreate here.”
In addition to the cable system, UDOT has put in place a mandatory brake check area near the top of the hill and signs displaying the distance to the truck escape ramp.
“Those that are driving large trucks should take a moment to stop there and to check over their vehicle and make sure they’re safe to come down this long, steep grade,” Roylance said. “UDOT is trying to make this area is safe as possible, but it’s also a shared responsibility.”
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