I-TEAM EXCLUSIVE: Big-rigs keep rolling over at same spot, neighbors blame CalTrans

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Caltrans tried to fix a busy intersection in Gilroy because of frequent fender benders, but the changes have led to more serious accidents involving big-rigs. Neighbors are blaming Caltrans for the problems. (KGO-TV)

Caltrans tried to fix a busy intersection in Gilroy because of all the fender benders, but the change has led to more serious accidents--big-rigs rolling over.

Caltrans thought the changes they made would help that intersection and now they're scrambling to figure out what to do next.

This I-Team investigation began in 2015 with a letter from Art Saenz and his son Michael complaining about a new sweeping curve that Caltrans installed near their home in Gilroy at Pacheco Pass/Highway 152 and Ferguson Road.

"There's been a lot of loss," said Michael. "A lot have rigs have gone over, I mean a lot."

When Saenz and Michael told us big-rigs kept rolling over on the curve, the I-Team began investigating. First stop--Google Maps. This is the way the intersection looked in 2012. Caltrans tells us there were many fender benders at the two stop signs.

Google Maps shows the dangerous Gilroy curve where several big-rigs have crashed.


"There was a lack of courtesy. As people reach the stop sign they should have been allowing the first car in to get through," said Bernard Walik, a Caltrans spokesman.

At that point, you had to take a 90-degree left turn to remain on Pachecho Pass heading Westbound. Now, after a $2 Million Caltrans project it's one long, sweeping curve that allows traffic to roll on through when the light is green.

Some loaded big-rigs can't handle the curve, especially if they're speeding.

"We did not anticipate that when that light was put in that there was going to be many truckers," Walik told ABC7 News. "Big-rig vehicles trying to get to that intersection, let's say to beat the light and going at a higher rate of speed than the curve can handle."

Many have landed next to Adriana Espinoza's yard.

When asked if the big-rigs rolling over so close to her home was scary, Espinoza replied, "It is scary, but I think now, we've seen at least 20 accidents."

The I-Team filed public records requests with the CHP and Calfire, whose emergency medical crews respond to the injury accidents. These documents confirm more than 20 big-rig rollovers at that spot since the Caltrans project.

One from Nov. 6 woke up Espinoza at 4:40 a.m. she went to help the passenger and the driver. "He was just hanging, holding on to the seat, but he didn't have his leg anymore so he was in pain," Espinoza told the I-Team. "And the other one said his back was hurting and it's just, it's just very sad to see that."

Other crashes at the curve made the ABC7 morning news earlier in February.

Walik tells the I-Team Caltrans has taken action installing a caution sign at the CHP's request.

He says the CHP made contact with him in Aug. 2015.

It could just be a coincidence but the CHP made that call to Caltrans just weeks after the I-Team filed our first public records request about the rollovers.

In March 2016 Caltrans ordered another set of signs that were installed just this week.

When asked if it took almost a year to put in one sign Walik said, "In some cases, in this case it did, yes. Just fabrication, the design."

The residents question whether the signs will make a difference. "I mean once you're driving and you're going a certain limit it's kind of hard to stop that much weight instantly," said Espinoza.

Saenz told us, "I think it was poorly engineered."

They both point out to us how flat the road is. There is no bank, no tilt to increase a tire's friction around that curve--nothing to help the big-rigs upright.

When asked if there was a thought of putting a bank on the pavement Walik said, "I believe at the very beginning of the design that was taken in consideration, but there were budget constraints to have such a bigger project and take place like that."

Caltrans tells us they are now considering putting a bank on that curve at a cost of $3.5 million. They call it, "super elevation," but they have to figure out how to pay for it.

Clearly it would have been easier when they did the work four years ago, but they didn't realize the big-rigs would roll so easily.

Click here for more of the ABC7 News I-Team's investigations.

Related Topics:
trafficI-Teamcrashcar crashtruck crashroad repairroad safetycaltransaccidenttrucksGilroy
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