Tom Clyde: Trucks, traffic and canned pasta
In this week’s traffic news, we had another semi-truck fire on I-80 on Wednesday. The eastbound truck caught fire more or less under the U.S. 40 flyover ramp, and closed both I-80 and Highway 40 for a while to clean up. Other than snarling traffic, there appeared to have been no injuries, and no other vehicles involved.
As truck fires go, this one lacked drama. It was back on Nov. 21, 2018, when a westbound semi caught fire and shut down the freeway. The most important part of that story was that the truck was filled with Spaghetti-Os headed for Walmart when it burst into flames. The Great Spaghetti-O fire of 2018, a day we will all remember. Strangely, it’s not the oil tankers that are burning.
There was also the recent incident when the driver of a semi was trying to evade police by driving his tractor-trailer through the windy back roads of Snyderville, assuming he wouldn’t be noticed driving a 10-foot wide truck down the 15-foot wide Old Ranch Road. The driver was arrested, but there hasn’t been any clear explanation of what was going on, or whether he was carrying a cargo of Spaghetti-Os or something more incriminating.
The volume of Spaghetti-Os shipped through Summit County is apparently much greater than you might think, suggesting that not all of you are as committed to farm-to-table dining as you’d have us believe.
On the same day as the non-pasta-related fire in Summit County, a semi went off the road in Wellington and flattened a restaurant. No one inside was seriously injured, but the French toast was ruined. The Highway Patrol report on that accident pointed out that the restaurant was now closed. The photo accompanying the report indicates that “obliterated” might be a more accurate term. There was no word on the cargo. The most surprising part of that story was that there is, or was, a restaurant in Wellington. We all know Wellington as a place to buy gas, snacks, and take a bathroom break on the way to Moab. Eating anything other than a gas station burrito there had never occurred to me.
On the other hand, there is a great restaurant in Helper called the Balance Rock Eatery. Trips in that direction get planned around eating in Helper. It’s also far enough off the main road that the odds of a truck loaded with Spaghetti-Os crashing through the front window are pretty slim.
Locally, Summit County is working to solve the Kimball Junction traffic problems. The current iteration of the interchange at Kimball Junction is at least the third, and possibly fourth, reconstruction of the intersection in my lifetime. When I got my driver’s license, Kimball Junction was a stop sign, and making the left turn to go to Salt Lake wasn’t bad except on the busiest ski days. But it doesn’t work now, with traffic backing on the off ramps in all directions, and general failure as traffic is clogged by the lights on S.R. 224.
It’s terrible if you are just trying to go through it on the main arteries. What gets really difficult is getting across 224 so you can lunch at any of our fine fast food places on the east side before crossing over to Walmart to stock up on Spaghetti-Os on your way to happy hour at Whole Foods. It doesn’t work. 224 will never be a neighborhood street. It also doesn’t work if you are just trying to get from Smith’s to, say, Great Clips. Most of the businesses there are within walking distance, but you would have to be suicidal to even consider walking through there.
So the County is going to fix it. They have a special committee that goes by the computer password of KJNMPBRC. They’ve been studying it for a long time now, looking for ways to make it possible to get from one business to another without having to choose between getting run over or moving your car 500 feet several times on a day of errands. The place is a monumental planning failure, with each strip mall deliberately designed by independent owners hell-bent on making sure that their customers can’t access the commercial space in the adjoining, competing, strip mall. There’s no normal street pattern, and what’s there is a hodgepodge of public and private streets and parking lot lanes that look like streets but don’t go anywhere.
KJNMPBRC has their work cut out for them, trying to retrofit some sense of order to that chaos. Their big plan to solve it all gets presented to the Planning Commission this week. My guess is it will involve a semi loaded with flaming Spaghetti-Os, driven into the heart of it so we can start over. It’s so scattered, it might take several trucks.
Tom Clyde practiced law in Park City for many years. He lives on a working ranch in Woodland and has been writing this column since 1986.
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It wasn’t that a cloud of imminent danger hung over Heber Valley during my first trip to Park City but I must admit to a certain degree of wariness.