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Speed, not off-ramp, to blame for semi crashes, UHP says

Published: Wednesday, June 19 2013 2:36 p.m. MDT

Two semitrailer rollovers in a newly constructed Spanish Fork interchange has some drivers wondering if the area is safe. UDOT said redesign was part of I-15 CORE project and drivers just need to slow down and follow speed advisories.

Mark Wetzel, Deseret News

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SPANISH FORK — A pair of recent semitrailer truck rollovers at the I-15/U.S. 6 interchange have drivers wondering if a newly configured off-ramp is safe.

On Saturday, a semitrailer carrying 60,000 pounds of apples was traveling too quickly on the curve leading to U.S. 6 at exit 257 off I-15, the Utah Highway Patrol said. The semitrailer tipped on its side, laying across all three lanes on the highway and closing the off-ramp for about three hours.

On May 10, the driver of a semitrailer carrying 75,000 pounds of frozen crab rolled when he took the southbound off-ramp to Spanish Fork and failed to navigate a turn, according to UHP.

While the accidents caused major backups, crashes don’t happen very often in the area, according to UHP Sgt. Kellie Oaks.

“We rarely have crashes in this off-ramp,” Oaks said. “This just isn’t one of our problem areas.”

Speed appears to have been a factor in both of the accidents, she said.

"Generally, truck drivers are some of the best drivers we have on the freeway,” Oaks said Monday, “but I think they're just taking for granted their loads, and the height of their loads, and they need to reduce their speed."

Both accidents closed the exit down for hours, causing a commuter nightmare.

"It really slows people down," Oaks said. "There is no other way for people to get to Carbon County. There is no other way for them to get home."

Drivers should obey the advisory speed sign and reduce their speed, she said.

The Utah Department of Transportation added new concrete ramps, a traffic signal and new exit locations as part of the I-15 CORE project, which was completed in December. The redesign increased efficiency by keeping traffic traveling between I-15 and U.S. 6 off the local streets, UDOT said.

Truck driver Alton Bartek drives a Texas-to-Seattle route once a week and has done so for the past 14 years. He's racked up more than 8 million miles on the roads in and around Utah, including the U.S. 6 exit. He said the new left-hand curve and stoplight is nice, “but as soon as you proceed to the curve, it’s rather somewhat tight.”

Part of the problem may be that some drivers remember the way the intersection was prior to reconstruction, UDOT spokesman John Gleason said. It used to be a free-flow intersection, and drivers didn’t have to stop.

Plenty of signs warning drivers to slow down are posted in the area, but some drivers just aren't paying attention, Gleason said.

"Anytime something like this is brought to our attention, we'll definitely take a look at this to see if there is any additional things we can do that will improve the area," Gleason said.

Bartek said he wants to see the ramp changed back to the way it was.

"It should be like it used to be without the light, and it just dropped you off into town," he said.

Contributing: Ashley Kewish

Email: vvo-duc@deseretnews.com

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