SPRINGDALE – A semitrailer entered the Zion Tunnel late Monday night without a traffic escort, and became wedged in the tunnel. At about 11:45 p.m. Monday, Zion National Park officials received a report that a semitruck was stuck in the Zion-Mt. Carmel Tunnel. The 18-wheeled semitruck was headed westbound when it became stuck approximately 600 feet from the tunnel’s west exit, according to a Park statement.
The driver was cited for operating the oversize vehicle in the tunnel without traffic control service. The park is investigating potential structural damage done to the historic tunnel.
In fall and winter, the Zion Tunnel closes daily at 4:30 p.m. to all vehicles that are over 11 feet 4 inches in height or 7 feet 10 inches in width, because the traffic control service is not available.
Semitrucks, commercial vehicles, and rigs over 50 feet long are not allowed through the tunnel without the traffic control service.
Signs at both the Park entrance station and on Highway 9 near Mt. Carmel Junction warn motorists of the size restrictions and closure of the tunnel.
The driver stated that he was new to the area, that his GPS led him on the route, and that he followed another vehicle through the entrance station without noticing the signs, the statement said.
The driver was headed from Kanab to Las Vegas, Nevada, with an empty trailer to pick up a load bound for Dallas, Texas. Commercial vehicles that are not doing business within the park are not permitted to drive through the park because of the tunnel dimensions, tight turns to the tunnel’s approach, narrow lanes, and wildlife.
The 1.1 mile tunnel is located on the Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and was opened in 1930 to make it easier for visitors to reach Zion Canyon from Bryce Canyon or the Grand Canyon.
At the time of its completion, it was the longest non-urban road tunnel in the United States. The Zion-Mount Carmel Highway and its features were placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1987.