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A semi truck collided with a car this morning in the construction zone of Interstate 80 -- a route the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has asked drivers of big rigs to avoid.
The accident backed up traffic for hours and is once again raising questions about why so much trucking traffic is in the narrow lanes.
Right now, a typical traffic slowdown on I-80 happens in that construction zone. This morning at the 700 East overpass, the road was blocked more than three hours.
The semi truck's cab hung up on a Jersey barrier. Wedged in between the two was a car mangled by the high-speed crash. "For the seriousness of the crash, they got pretty lucky that the injuries were as minor as they were," said Sgt. Anthony Carrubba, with the Utah Highway Patrol (UHP).
UHP says a Cadillac traveling east in front of the semi clipped a traffic barrier on the right. The semi tried to avoid the car and moved left, forcing another car into the left-side barrier. The semi then came back to the right and slammed the Cadillac against the barrier and almost over the edge.
The truck driver and the Cadillac driver went to the hospital with minor injuries. "It's a very dangerous situation for the semis to use I-80. We've requested them to use 215 and go around the belt route. That hasn't been as successful as we would hope," Carrubba said.
Even after the crash, dozens of big rigs waited in traffic to roll on by. UDOT has the authority to ban semis from the construction zone, and even considered that when construction started, but for now has decided not too.
"Because of the data we have on record, we didn't see the need for that. We just haven't seen a big increase involving semis or any other vehicles that are different from any other road in the state," said UDOT spokesman Adan Carrillo.
UDOT says many trucks do take I-215, otherwise traffic would be worse. State troopers would like to see all truckers comply. "It would be beneficial to all of us. It will only take them probably about 14 or 15 miles off of their route," Carrubba said.
Carrillo said, "We're halfway into the project. We have not seen an increase in accidents involving semis, so we don't anticipate having to ban semis anytime soon."
We found one Utah trucking company that is requiring its drivers to detour around I-80, in an effort to stay safe. Action Transport weighed the state's request and looked at the extra dozen or so miles drivers would have to go out of their way. Bosses decided to make it policy.
Safety manager Reed Newman says, "It may cost a little bit more to be safe out there, to maintain the vehicles, to put in a little more fuel in to drive that extra little bit around 215, in this instance, but safety is more important."
Since most truckers are paid by the mile, Newman acknowledges the incentive is to get from point A to point B along the shortest route. But he also told us he believes many of the local drivers make the detour and that the out-of-state truckers are more inclined to take I-80 because they don't realize how dangerous the situation is in the construction zone.
Speeding is a bigger issue. UHP has issued more than 240 tickets in the construction zone. If you travel 65 miles per hour rather than the posted 55 mph, you only save yourself 20 seconds through the two-mile zone.