Utah drops speed limit on Park City’s S.R. 224 entryway to 45 mph
The Utah Department of Transportation this week reduced the speed limit on a stretch of S.R. 224 along the Park City entryway, dropping the limit by 10 mph, in a decision designed to better guard against collisions between drivers and wildlife.
The change, from 55 mph to 45 mph, impacts an approximately one-mile stretch of S.R. 224 as it passes the McPolin Farm. The speed limit north and south of that section of the state highway had long been 45 mph, and the change also creates consistency in speeds, the Department of Transportation said. The speed-limit signs were changed on Tuesday.
S.R. 224 is part of the state highway system and runs between Kimball Junction and the mountains south of Park City. The Department of Transportation controls policies regarding the road, such as setting speed limits. The Department of Transportation and City Hall have for decades consulted each other as policies are crafted.
John Gleason, a spokesperson for the Department of Transportation, said City Hall officials approached the state in the spring about the possibility of reducing the speed limit. There was City Hall concern about traffic accidents involving wildlife, he said. The stretch of S.R. 224 where the speed limit was reduced travels through habitat for a variety of species like deer, elk and moose. There is open space on both sides of the road, including the farm.
Gleason said the Department of Transportation researched the wildlife collisions prior to the decision to reduce the speed limit. He said there were 70 wildlife-related collisions reported to the department over the last five-year period, an average of more than one per month. The total does not include minor collisions or cases when the animal was hit, injured and left the scene of the accident.
Gleason said the wildlife collisions were the determining factor in the decision to reduce the speed limit.
“Anytime we can improve safety, that’s something we want to investigate,” he said.
The reduced speed limit is intended to provide drivers more reaction time if an animal is in the road.
He said the Department of Transportation will monitor the section of S.R. 224 where the speed limit was reduced for several years to determine whether there is a drop in the number of accidents between drivers and animals.
The Park City Police Department regularly receives reports of wildlife on or close to the road along S.R. 224. The agency also receives many of the reports of driver-wildlife collisions.
In one especially gruesome stretch around New Year’s in 2019, two elk died in collisions on the S.R. 224 entryway, leaving the carcasses temporarily on the side of the road during the busy holiday. They were collected by people holding the proper permits to collect the carcasses, but dead animals needed to be partially dismembered with a battery-powered saw to fit in the vehicle.
Mayor Andy Beerman mentioned the change in the speed limit at a Park City Council meeting on Thursday, indicating the reduction will serve the purpose of protecting against collisions. The elected officials, though, did not address the topic in any depth.
It is unclear what sort of impact the reduction will have on the habits of drivers. The S.R. 224 entryway has long been a notorious stretch of road for speeding even at the 55 mph limit. The drop in the speed limit to 45 mph will likely catch many unsuspecting drivers by surprise in coming weeks and then as the ski season starts and traffic increases.
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The Park City Police Department last week received at least two reports involving cases of different natures at construction locations. In one of the cases, the police were told 1,000 construction workers had left vehicles on the street.