(Host) The winding road through Smuggler’s Notch is filled with steep, hair-pin turns.
You take extra care if you’re driving your car through the notch between Stowe and Jeffersonville.
The speeds are very … very slow.
But this year the road closed down six times when tractor-trailer trucks tried to get through.
VPR’s Ross Sneyd took a drive through the Notch to find out why.
(Sneyd) As the road gets to the top of the Notch, this is where it’s the narrowest. It can’t even be 12 feet wide there. There’s no way a truck could get through that space.
(Anderson) “No, that’s where they do all the damage to their rim. But this is down further where the big sweeping curve is. There’s a big rock on the right hand side. And what’s happening is they can’t get a wide enough swing because there’s a big rock up on the left over the ditch. So it’s too narrow right there. So they get their tractor around and their trailer’s getting caught on that big rock on the right hand side and then it pinches everything right there. It’s a pinch point.”
(Sneyd) That’s Bob Anderson, who works for the Transportation Agency.
He says the highway is really for cars, not trucks.
Officially, it’s Route 108 and it’s part of the National Scenic Byways Program.
Legend has it this is where smugglers between Canada and the U-S made their way through the mountains. Huge boulders tumbled off the thousand-foot cliffs and formed caves that today are popular with tourists.
This year, it’s become an occasional truck route – and no one — including the truckers – has made out very well.
In Jeffersonville, the sign says: `Vermont 108. Not a through route for tractor-trailers." There are two signs in a row as you begin your way up the hill.
Anderson says that hasn’t been much help.
(Anderson) “Most of ‘em are saying they’re reading the prohibited signs, but they’re just going through.”
(Sneyd) The state thinks a detour in some road construction at the foot of the mountain in Jeffersonville may be part of the problem. Signs may have sent trucks the wrong way.
State police Lieutenant John Flannigan says authorities are trying to make the signs and detours clearer.
(Flannigan) “We’ve actually been in touch with the Agency of Transportation and the contractor that is coordinating that project. We are actually working on some of the signage in that area to try to clarify those regulations so this doesn’t occur again.”
(Sneyd) The change of seasons may take care of the problem. The notch road isn’t passable for any vehicles once winter sets in.
(Anderson) “Once we get snow and ice up there, then it’s automatically closed.”
(Sneyd) For VPR News, I’m Ross Sneyd.