The Vermont Agency of Transportation has a new strategy to prevent large trucks from attempting to navigate Smuggler’s Notch.
For decades, tractor-trailers have been getting stuck in the Notch, blocking the road for other travelers and leading to hours-long delays while crews removed the vehicle.
Signs warning of the tight curves – and the hefty fines for getting stuck in them — don’t always work to discourage truckers in a hurry to get to the other side of Mt. Mansfield. Every year, several try – and fail — to make it.
Todd Sears, deputy director of VTrans Operations & Safety Bureau, says driver inconvenience isn’t the only potential problem when a truck gets stuck.
“There is a danger also in the sense that first responder vehicles, for example, could not make it through if Stowe needed to support Cambridge or Cambridge needed to support Stowe,” he said.
Now, after years of study and planning, VTrans has arrived at what they believe may be a solution: chicanes, sets of artificial rubber curves that replicate the tight turns in the Notch.
As first reported by the News & Citizen, officials hope that chicanes positioned at each end of VT 108, near the Stowe and Smuggler’s Notch ski resorts, will convince truck drivers that they won’t make it through the Notch’s actual curves. They can then use the resort parking lot to turn around.
“It’s actually just one individual, higher angle curve that will be difficult for trucks,” Sears says. “If they can’t get through them lower down on the mountain, they have ample opportunity to extricate themselves and head back.”
The temporary chicanes will be put in place in April on a trial basis. If they seem to work to discourage truckers, they could become permanent.
That’s good news for Det. Lt. Fred Whitcomb of the Stowe Police Department, who says stuck trucks make the Notch more dangerous for everyone.
“I’ve spent time up there myself in the dark, and it’s just not safe,” he said. “I’m happy to see that there’s actually some sort of a plan. I’m excited to see what it looks like and hopefully it works.”