Lake Tahoe runaway ramp upgrade work continues into summer

Duane Johnson and Annie Conway |
NDOT is converting the current rock truck ramp into a an asphalt ramp with a series of six pre tensioned drag nets designed to more safely stop runaway semi-trucks.
Courtesy NDOT |

RENO, Nev. — The Nevada Department of Transportation (NDOT) started construction to enhance the State Route 431 Mt. Rose Highway truck escape ramp in the beginning of May. For the safety of drivers, semi-trucks headed westbound on the highway are prohibited during construction.

Q&D, a Sparks-based construction company, is converting the rock ramp to asphalt and installing a series of six pre-tensioned dragnets. The nets are designed to catch the front grill of trucks and absorb the impact while slowing and stopping the vehicle. Two flashing signs and an overhead digital message sign will be installed to inform drivers if a truck is on the ramp.

“This innovative truck ramp system has been shown to be effective, and truly save lives, where it has been used in other countries and states,” Meg Ragonese, public information officer with NDOT, said in an email. “We want to bring this safety enhancement to Nevada as part of our continuing efforts to keep Nevada roads safe.”

According to NDOT, approximately 5,000 vehicles travel along this section of Mt. Rose highway each day.

Paul Enos, CEO of the Nevada Trucking Association is grateful the project is helping to enhance the well being of his drivers.

“I appreciate all the work NDOT is doing to ensure driver safety,” Enos said.

While Enos added it could cause trucking companies to use alternate routes, the long-term benefits of driver safety should outweigh any short-term inconvenience.

He added that, occasionally, it might add an hour or so to truckers’ drive time and distance.

The only problem he can see arising right now is extra hours on alternate routes that may cause drivers to come close or exceed mandated hours of service regulations. Under the federal hours of service guidelines, drivers can drive a maximum 11 hours on a trip after 10 consecutive hours off-duty. But he doesn’t anticipate that becoming a huge issue. Alternate routes are not that far out of the way from the normal commute.

The current rock runaway truck ramp was constructed in the 1970s. The need for renovations to the ramp became apparent after several fatal incidents.

In June 2010, a semi-truck driver named Fredrick Matthews, 41, was killed when he drove his out-of-control truck on to the ramp. The ramp failed to stop the truck and it was vaulted off the ramp into the residential area below. The truck crashed into a home setting the house on fire and trapping Matthews inside.

The sole occupant of the house, Gwendolynn Ewasko escaped unharmed but four cats also died in the fire.

In April 2012, a driver of an 18-wheeler carrying long pieces of wood hit the ramp. The ramp stopped the truck and its trailer but the load of wood continued its momentum through the cab of the truck killing the driver Eric S. Holton, 31.

According to NDOT, more than 30 contractors and subcontractors will work on the ramp enhancement project. The cost for the work is estimated at $4.6 million. The project is federally funded a portion of the funds coming from the federal highway safety fund.

The project is scheduled to be complete by fall 2016.

This is one of four runaway truck ramps in Nevada. Two other ramps are located on U.S. 50 between Carson City and Lake Tahoe and the fourth ramp is located in Laughlin.

For more information about the project, visit

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