Telling drivers to do their "homework" before taking a chance on I-15 is OK, but it must be accompanied by clear warnings for those motorists who forgot to cram for the daily detour exam.
Keeping up with closures and re-routing changes in the Salt Lake Valley is impossible. It is the responsibility of Wasatch Constructors and other contractors doing work to give drivers every opportunity to bail out before getting stuck in gridlock.That did not happen last weekend, when hundreds of vehicles entered the 500 South and 900 South freeway onramps only to run into a parking lot - without helpful attendants. There were no signs warning of shutdowns, no flashing warnings of trouble ahead. Only an ambush that led to bizarre and dangerous backtracking, citations and lots of angry motorists.
Though there was no justification for drivers turning around and heading the wrong way against traffic - a potentially deadly trick - it is not hard to empathize with those who inadvertently drove into a exasperating situation not of their making.
They were stuck for a long period of time. Wasatch Constructors should have given adequate warning. Failure to do so was an abdication of responsibility, which is surprising considering Wasatch Constructors has deserved fairly high marks for effective communication until now.
The root of the problem was the closure of I-15 at 2100 South until nearly 2 p.m. Sunday, April 5. Lighted signs warned those coming from the north and those coming from the west on I-80. But poor souls entering the freeway on the 500 South and 900 South ramps received no warnings until the single-lane, stop-sign controlled 2100 South offramp.
That met the minimum federal requirement for notification, but, practically speaking, it was too little too late. With offramps at 900 South and 1300 South closed, those stuck in traffic had no choice but to wait it out.
The incident eroded public trust in the contractor's ability and willingness to keep already frustrated motorists informed. Minimum federal standards should not be the guideline. Effective communication for everyone's safety, sanity and peace of mind should.