Utah Department of Transportation reveals preliminary plans for wildlife overpass
Future projects discussed at open house
In as early as the fall of 2017, the Utah Department of Transportation could begin constructing the state’s first wildlife overpass on Interstate 80 near Parley’s Summit.
Representatives revealed the preliminary plans and location for the multi-million project during an open house on Thursday with the nonprofit organization Save People Save Wildlife.
UDOT recently completed the installation of one mile of permanent wildlife fencing along Interstate 80 and met with the organization to celebrate the first phase of mitigation along that section of the highway. Members with Save People Save Wildlife also presented UDOT with a $42,000 check as part of their contribution toward the project.
“I think the big factor is just the partnership with Save People Save Wildlife. I’ve never seen anything like this where a public group is able to raise this kind of money and for this kind of cause. It is really an amazing thing and it is exciting to have the first mile of fencing done,” said John Montoya, UDOT’s project manager, in an interview with The Park Record.“We wish that we could have the money at this moment to finish off the fence and to get working on the bridge.
“When those things are done we will have a much improved facility here that will be much safer for people to travel and for animals to cross as well,” Montoya said.
The wildlife overpass is currently being designed with construction scheduled to begin as early as the fall of 2017, Montoya said. The proposed location for the bridge is at Parley’s Summit in Salt Lake County.
“The bridge would basically span the brake-check area and the eastbound off ramp to Summit Park,” Montoya said. He said the bridge will span about 300 feet or nearly the length of an entire football field.
Over the next several months, UDOT’s design team will work to determine the optimal location for the crossing, Montoya said.
“The biggest factor would be trying to find the location where the animals will actually use it,” Montoya said. “We don’t want them to be looking for gaps and holes in the fencing.”
Completion of the overpass is estimated to take about one year, Montoya said, adding “our target finish date is November 2018.”
The project is being funded by a $5 million grant from the Utah Transportation Commission for wildlife mitigation. However, the money is tied to the $17 million climbing-lane project that will add an additional westbound lane between Jeremy Ranch and Lamb’s Canyon and three more miles of fencing. The money won’t be available until October of 2017.
“We wish the money was available today. We would be out there working and trying to finish this project,” Montoya said. “We just have to get ready for the release of those funds and we will be ready to go from day one.”
Dar Hendrickson, a Park City resident who attended the open house, said he didn’t know he cared about wildlife mitigation until he was involved in an accident on Interstate 80 over the summer. Hendrickson recounted that he and his wife were driving home to Park City from Salt Lake City when he hit a moose while traveling at around 70 miles per hour.
“I have lived in Park City for 37 years and have come down over that canyon maybe 1,000 times in my life and I tell you it changes how you view your own personal safety,” Hendrickson said. “I didn’t know that I cared about this until it happened to me and we considered ourselves extremely lucky.”
Hendrickson said as he heard about the efforts of Save People Save Wildlife he thought “I have to do whatever I can to be a part of this, even if it is not money, to just show my support for everyone who is doing this.”
“There have been just things in life that change how you view things and this has changed how I drive at night,” Hendrickson said. “I think the wildlife fence and the bridge are amazing things and I just want to thank those who have put in the effort to get us this far.”
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