UDOT engineers propose safety improvement for potentially dangerous intersection

Aug 22, 2019, 6:24 PM | Updated: Aug 23, 2019, 5:30 am
(Credit: Jackie and Lance Bourne)...
(Credit: Jackie and Lance Bourne)
(Credit: Jackie and Lance Bourne)

RICH COUNTY – Engineers with UDOT believe they’ve found a solution to a problematic intersection near Bear Lake.  Ironically, they stumbled across this solution by accident.

Two semi-trucks have crashed at the intersection of Highway 89 and North Bear Lake Drive in the past couple of weeks.  Last October, a semi driver died at that same location after crashing into a store that’s no longer there.  Those crashes have convinced UDOT to make safety at this intersection a high priority.

There are already several runaway truck ramps all over Utah, but, Project Development Director Kris Peterson says those might not work at this location since the road is going downhill.  Instead, they’re proposing a “vehicle arrest system” that would use steel cables to slow a vehicle down.

“As the car goes through there, it has some spools of steel roll out and as it does so, it reduces the energy of the vehicle,” Peterson says.

It works similar to the way aircraft carriers catch jets when they land.

He adds, “As you go further down, more and more, those nets will catch you, depending on the weight of your vehicle.”

Peterson first saw this kind of device while traveling in Wyoming.  The person he was with spotted it near the Teton Pass, and they both were curious to see what it was.  Peterson arranged a tour of the device shortly after.

He also had a chance to see this device in action, again, by accident.  Just minutes after he stepped off the ramp, he says he could hear a semi approaching and it sounded like something was wrong.  When the truck came into view, Peterson could see the brakes were on fire and the driver couldn’t stop.

“Sure enough, just a couple of seconds later, he drove into that ramp and the ramp stopped him.”

The driver was able to walk away, although he was extremely rattled.  Peterson says those cables saved that man’s life.  These mechanisms are reportedly much safer than crash cushions placed near offramps since the cushions are designed to stop a car quickly within a short amount of distance.

“This is designed to catch a vehicle in a matter of 500 feet or several hundred feet.  The driver can get out and walk away.  Generally, if you hit one of those other [cushions], you may have to go to the hospital,” Peterson says.

The project has not been approved yet, but, Peterson says this is the primary idea to make that intersection safer.

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UDOT engineers propose safety improvement for potentially dangerous intersection