Interstate 80 shutdown causes massive problems throughout Snyderville Basin
The first evening of a shutdown of Interstate 80 caused more than just the expected construction-related headaches as drivers looked for alternative routes through several neighborhoods in the Snyderville Basin, choking neighborhood entrances.
The Utah Department of Transportation’s closure of the westbound lanes of the interstate between Summit Park and Parley’s Summit snarled traffic Tuesday night, eliminating the main route from Park City to Salt Lake City. The westbound lanes were closed between mile marker 141 and 137 from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. the following morning. The shutdown allowed construction crews to put support beams in place for a new wildlife overpass at Parley’s Summit in Salt Lake County.
Lt. Andrew Wright, of the Summit County Sheriff’s Office, said the construction resulted in several dozen calls to dispatch and an incident where a deputy was nearly run over by an angry driver.
The Sheriff’s Office placed deputies at the entrances of several neighborhoods, including Summit Park, to direct traffic. A patrol supervisor was helping semi-trucks to turn around and making contact with every driver to determine whether they were a resident of Summit Park, Wright said.
“During that process an elderly man pulls up, obviously irritated with the circumstances,” he said. “He came up speeding and tried to get through traffic when our sergeant signaled at him to stop and slow down.”
Wright said the man was rude and became aggressive with the deputy, accelerating his vehicle while the sergeant was still talking with him.
“The sergeant had to push himself away from the vehicle so he didn’t get run over, but his arm was hooked inside the window,” he said. “He started to get dragged and had to lift his feet up, all the while yelling at the driver to stop.”
Wright said the man drove away from the scene and the deputy was unable to locate him. A witness took down the man’s license plate number, and he was later identified as a 76-year-old Summit Park resident. Police have been unable to make contact with the man, but an arrest warrant will likely be issued for aggravated assault on a police officer and evading, Wright said.
“We have had contact with him in the past and are aware of who he is, so we will hold him responsible for his actions,” he said.
Other reported issues related to the construction included a downed power pole in Summit Park. Wright said a semi-truck attempted to turn on the narrow streets. Rocky Mountain Power had to be contacted to fix the line.
Utah Highway Patrol troopers stepped in to help the Sheriff’s Office close the interstate at the Jeremy Ranch exit later in the night in an attempt to redirect traffic to one of the suggested detours through Ogden via Interstate 84 or U.S. 40 to U.S. 189 through Provo Canyon. But, drivers then attempted to avoid the construction by looking for alternate routes through the Jeremy Ranch neighborhood, Wright said.
“That turned into a nightmare,” he said. “Semis were going through the neighborhood before most eventually realized it wasn’t built for those vehicles.”
Significant damage occurred to the Jeremy Ranch roundabout as several trucks attempted to access S.R. 65, which is a dirt road that leads through East Canyon.
“People were not following the signage and were upset that they couldn’t get through,” Wright said. “A lot of residents were complaining about traffic congestions because their neighborhoods weren’t meant to be a thoroughfares and rightfully so.”
Wright said callers were berating dispatchers.
“Yes it was inconvenient, but people needed to have a little respect for those that are trying to do their jobs,” he said. “People were losing their minds and all sense of what it means to be a human being. I mean 911 is not meant for someone who is upset over a road closure.”
Tuesday night’s work ended up taking longer than expected, and the westbound lanes were closed again Wednesday evening. But, Wright said the Sheriff’s Office worked closely with UDOT and the construction company to prevent a similar situation.
“We collaborated with them and told them the specific things we needed in place,” he said. “We told them about all of the instances of damages to power poles and landscaping and that it was taxing on our limited resources. They agreed to put more signage in and get barricades in place closer to the Jeremy Ranch exit.”
Wright said dispatch did not receive a single complaint as a result of Wednesday’s closure.
The eastbound lanes of the interstate were closed overnight on Thursday and the construction went according to schedule.
A spokesperson with UDOT did not return messages left by The Park Record by press time.
The closures are tied to a new truck lane and wildlife improvements that are planned for the interstate between Jeremy Ranch and Lambs Canyon. UDOT crews are currently working to add a climbing-truck lane in the westbound lanes between Jeremy Ranch and Parley’s Summit. Construction on the wildlife crossing and truck lane are expected to be complete sometime in the fall.
Park City is considering adding another legacy project that would mark the community’s role in the 2002 Winter Olympics.