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Parleys Canyon can still be accessed in emergencies

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Eighteen-hundred cars pass through Parleys Canyon per hour on a busy weekend afternoon. But only emergency responders can get through westbound when Interstate 80 closes for 24 hours today at 4 p.m.

"They’re going to make arrangements so if we’ve got to get an ambulance through there we’re going to be able to do that," Summit County Emergency Manager Butch Swenson said.

In an emergency people should call 911, he stressed.

"We provide an advanced life support system up here to include helicopter transport," Swenson said. "All they have to do is call 911 to get it there. If we’ve got to get into Salt Lake we’ll fly them. If we’ve got to go by ground transport we’ll make arrangements to get through the closure."

The medical helicopter is stationed on Bitner Road at the Park City Fire District.

"It’s an evil that we’ve got to live with," Swenson said about the closure. "We know it’s a big deal for folks."

Stephanie Singer is an obstetrician in Park City with about 10 patients due to give birth in Summit County in the next three weeks.

"Those are the people you worry about because women don’t go into labor on their due date," Singer said about the closure. "Any clinician I’m sure would have spoken to their staff to be sure their patients know what to do and they’re not just answering that question in the middle of the night with no plan."

Labor during childbirth "can be 20 minutes long or two days long," Singer said.

"The fact that the freeway will be closed, anybody who is imminently delivering, I would assume would be either brought down before that or have alternative plans made with the Heber hospital," Singer said. "It’s imperative."

Firefighters and paramedics are ready for the roadway to close, Park City Fire District Battalion Chief Ray Hutzinger said.

"We’re prepared to do business as usual. We can get through the construction," Hutzinger said. "If you’re having a medical emergency, call 911."

The westbound lanes will close today at 4 p.m. and reopen Sunday at 4 p.m. The eastbound lanes will be closed from 7 p.m. Aug. 16 until 7 p.m. Aug. 17.

"If we have a major [hazardous materials] spill or release, we may need resources from Salt Lake," Swenson said. "If we let [UDOT] know, they will get it open for us to put some hazmat people through there."

A hotline provides construction updates at (888) I80-UDOT and motorists who need to get around the closures should use Interstate 84 or U.S. 189 in Provo Canyon, said Randy Park, director of UDOT Region II.

Construction has not forced the closure of Parleys Canyon for 24 hours before, Park said.

Utah Department of Transportation officials say closing the freeway for 24 hours allows bridges at Mountain Dell and Lambs Canyon to be replaced less expensively and with less impact on drivers.

The closures will start west of Summit Park near Parleys Summit. About 175 signs will warn motorists of delays before and during the road closures.

"That poor truck driver coming from Illinois or someplace," Swenson said. "All of the sudden they hit these signs that say ‘Road Closed.’"

According to Swenson, "truck drivers will either call 911 or get on the CB, and it won’t take long before a highway patrolman knows they are in trouble."


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