Dept. of Transportation, Highway Patrol react to semi crashes on I-90 Interchange


Dept. of Transportation, Highway Patrol react to semi crashes on I-90 Interchange

BELGRADE, Mont. - A detour route near Bozeman gets a few changes, and increases patrols in hopes of keeping drivers safe after a number of crashes.

The Montana Highway Patrol says recent semi crashes have sparked them to up patrols along a detour route on Interstate 90.

And we're learning the Montana Department of Transportation added a few new things to the area.

The detour is at the construction of the Belgrade Interchange, about 10 miles west of Bozeman.

Both directions of the detour are curved, and since opening in April, three semis have flipped over, after troopers said they were going too fast.

Three semi trucks have tipped over since the detour opened in April.

"When they first opened the construction zone, DOT had two lanes going eastbound, two lanes going west bound through the detour which was posted 35 mph," explained Sgt. Patrick McLaughlin with the Montana Highway Patrol.

That changed after the first crash, from two lanes in each direction down to one.

But that didn't seem to solve the problem.

"Since then, we've had two other semis roll in the exact same spot as the first one," Sgt. McLaughlin said.

The Montana Highway Patrol describes the detour as self-regulating, which means during the day, speeds won't get up to more than 45 miles per hour.

That's why Sergeant McLaughlin said their focus is getting drivers to slow down at night.

That's when all three semi crashes happened, he said, there was less traffic and the truckers were going more than 15 above the speed limit.

So after the most recent crash last Friday, MDT installed traffic signs advising semis to drive 25 miles per hour, and warning of the danger of tipping over.

Plus these bigger, more reflective cones now line the route.

"Hopefully with those two changes we can get truckers to slow down a little bit more and not crash," Sgt. McLaughlin said.

Sergeant McLaughlin explained his troopers are increasing patrols.

"They have their emergency lights on and they're facing traffic," Sgt. McLaughlin said, "just as an extra advisory of the construction zone."

Department of Transportation District Construction Supervisor Bill Fogarty explained they are confident the changes they made will help prevent more crashes, but said, it is ultimately up to drivers to slow down.

"We're incrementally trying to adjust and adapt to reduce the numbers of decisions drivers have to make when they're navigating through that detour safely," Fogarty said.

NBC Montana stopped by a truck stop near the Belgrade Interchange to see what drivers think about the changes.

Drivers explained they've seen people speed through that detour often, and are glad MDT and MHP are taking action.

One driver explained he thinks the patrols will be most helpful, and hopes it'll get drivers around him to slow down.

Construction zones, you always got to do the speed limit," explained truck driver Gary Norrell. "It's that way for a reason. I've seen trucks and four wheelers speeding through work zones...If there's always a cop hiding, waiting to give somebody a ticket through a construction zone, might teach these people from speeding in construction zones."

MDT explained while they believe the steps they took will help prevent any more semi crashes on the Interchange detour, if it does happen again, they will meet with the contractor to brainstorm what other actions they can take.

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