Save People Save Wildlife to present $42,000 check to UDOT at open house
UDOT recently installed one mile of wildlife fencing along I-80
Sharon Cantwell, who lives in the Pinebrook neighborhood and is a member of the nonprofit organization Save People Save Wildlife, said she still feels anxious while driving on Interstate 80 despite the installation of one mile of permanent wildlife fencing.
The Utah Department of Transportation completed the three-week long, $100,000 project on Nov. 10. The fencing extends one mile west from the Jeremy Ranch exit toward Parley’s Canyon. Last week, an escape ramp was also installed to allow trapped animals on the highway to escape through a gap in the fencing.
Members of the organization pressured UDOT to install the fencing with claims that the moose population is dwindling in the Snyderville Basin and that drivers are at risk of facing a collision. The organization partnered with UDOT on the project, contributing approximately $42,000.
“I think we continue to feel that way only because we would love to see more fencing completed,” Cantwell said. “But, I know that if UDOT had $1.75 million that they could hand over to us right now, they would. One thing at a time.”
Save People Save Wildlife will host an open house from 6 p.m. until 7:30 p.m. on Thursday, Dec. 1, at the Jeremy Ranch Golf Club, to present UDOT with a check and celebrate the completion of the first phase of fencing. A representative from UDOT is expected to attend, along with members of the organization who donated toward the project.
“I am really looking forward to hearing from them and their side in terms of the next phase,” Cantwell said. “I think if we just keep the eye on the ball and continue our dialogue together and our positive partnership we will all eventually be on the same page. I think Thursday will help us move forward with that.”
John Gleason, a public information officer with UDOT, said the meeting on Thursday will mark the “great partnership that we have with Save People Save Wildlife.”
“It will give us the opportunity to thank them and our UDOT crews for working together to get the initial portion of this project complete before the winter months,” Gleason said. “Our main spokesperson, John Montoya, who will be the project manager for the I-80 climbing-lane project, will be there to discuss the next steps.”
UDOT was approved for $5 million for wildlife mitigation along Interstate 80 by the Utah Transportation Commission. However, the money is tied to the $17 million climbing-lane project that will add an additional westbound lane between Jeremy Ranch and the summit of Parley’s Canyon that is scheduled to begin in the fall of 2017. The money won’t be available until October of 2017.
“The wildlife portion of the climbing-lane project will include approximately three miles of fencing in both directions from Jeremy Ranch to Parley’s summit and we will also be looking at adding an additional escape ramp there as well on the other side,” Gleason said. “We are still in the design phase of the wildlife crossing, but the most likely scenario is that there will be a wildlife overpass.”
Gleason said a preliminary location for the wildlife crossing will likely be unveiled during the open house. He said the location could still change, however, a location has been identified.
“It’s an important area. We have a lot of traffic through Parley’s and we want everyone to be safe and make sure our roads are kept in good shape in this critical corridor,” Gleason said. “It’s an important project.”
Ralph Hottinger, one of the founding members of Save People Save Wildlife who lives in Hidden Cove, said he believes the fencing has already reduced the number of vehicle/wildlife collisions along that stretch of the interstate.
“It’s fantastic. UDOT has been a great partner to work with and we want to thank them for that,” Hottinger said. “Our group is hoping to raise some more funds so we can get more fencing to continue to make this area safe.”
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