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Semi drivers urged to be cautious at East Belgrade Interchange detour

By Grace Ditzler, KTVM Reporter, gditzler@ktvm.com
Published On: Apr 17 2014 10:21:45 PM MDT
Updated On: Apr 17 2014 11:09:10 PM MDT
BOZEMAN, Mont. -

The detour around the East Belgrade Interchange Project has only been open for two weeks, and already, there have been some issues.

The detour is east of the current Belgrade Interchange, near South Alaska Road.

Two semitrucks have tipped over on the detour since it was opened.

Truck driver William Doramus was driving from Idaho to North Dakota on Monday when he saw a semitruck rolled over on the detour of the East Belgrade Interchange Project.

"A truck on its side," Doramus said, "the wheel was bent on the driver's side."

He said he knows from experience the detour is hard to drive through. He's explained it is because of how narrow and curved the path is, especially for a semi.

"I just see that somebody wasn't driving safe," he said. "They didn't think about it before they came around it. When I came around it was like, 'Whoa, this looks a little steep. I should slow down.'"

Montana Highway Patrol Sgt. Patrick McCarthy said the two semis rolled over in the same spot in the past two weeks, but both were driver errors.

"One fell asleep and the other was too fast," he said.

The detour itself is safe for drivers, he explained, but people need to stay alert when passing through the area, especially because, he said, there are drivers who speed through the area, making it unsafe for the people around them.

"It's safe for all people who are paying attention and operating at the speed limit," McCarthy explained, especially when it comes to semis.

The truck drivers said driving in construction zones is dangerous for them because of construction zones' unpredictable nature.

"A trailer that's loaded very high in the back has a high center of gravity and it can lean quite easily," explained truck driver William Looker, who has been driving trucks for 20 years. He said he has never been in an accident, and was surprised to hear about the truck incidents.

"It's very unsafe to race into a construction zone with a truck when you don't know what the conditions inside the construction zone could be," Looker said.

And Doramus, who has only been driving trucks for 3 months, agreed. He said when he is behind the wheel in a construction zone, he takes all precautions -- for himself and everyone around him.

"My trainer, when I was being trained, he told me that when I'm driving, I have to drive for myself and everybody else on the road," Doramus said.

The Department of Transportation has since turned the eastbound detour into one lane, and planned to turn the westbound lanes into a one-lane road as well.

The Montana Highway Patrol said with the change to one lane, drivers should expect traffic delays during the busiest times of the day.