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Group wants wildlife overpass near Park City after numerous crashes

Posted at 6:09 PM, Nov 24, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-24 20:09:02-05

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — A wildlife group is asking UDOT to make changes to a highway between I-80 and Park City, saying there's been an alarming number of drivers hitting animals like deer and moose.

On SR 224 between Kimball Junction and Park City, lie scattered signs of animals that tried to scurry across the road, as well as signs of cars that came to a screeching halt.

"We've had moose, and deer, and elk hit recently almost on a daily basis," said Erin Ferguson, Secretary for the organization Save People Save Wildlife. She explained that at least three moose have died in the past five to six weeks alone, all in the same area.

Save People Save Wildlife has been keeping an eye on that road, and Ferguson indicated they're deeply concerned by what they see.

Near Cutter Lane, pieces of a plastic bumper sit near the remnants of a baby and mother moose recently hit and killed.

"It was sad to see a baby moose and their mother get killed," said Gabby Saunders, Public Relations Liaison for Save People Save Wildlife. "That created a new wave of upset and outrage."

Saunders explained how a local community member created a petition after the moose pair died, on top of a petition already started by Save People Save Wildlife that calls for UDOT to mitigate animal-vehicle crashes on SR 224.

"SR 224 is considered the fifth biggest hot spot," she said. Additionally, Saunders continued, those kinds of crashes are costly. The report outlines how $138 million dollars are lost every year on these crashes.

Save People Save Wildlife, Ferguson said, has been meeting with UDOT monthly the past few months, and has also approached the Summit County Council.

They aren't just raising concerns. They're also offering solutions.

"This is completely preventable," Saunders said. "We have seen study through study, time after time, that wildlife crossings with corresponding fencing do reduce these collisions from anywhere to 70 to 90 percent."

The group is hoping for a wildlife underpass or overpass, much like the one UDOT installed over I-80 in Parley's Canyon in 2018.

READ: Wildlife overpass in Utah proves successful at helping animals safely cross interstate

But a project like that, Saunders pointed out, takes years and millions of dollars. That's why they're hoping for short term solutions now.

Ferguson described one idea of erecting animal silhouettes along the roadside to help make tourists and locals more aware that animals may be crossing the road.

She'd also like to see the speed limit on the highway. Right now, there are pockets of 55 mph stretches.

"If we can get a 45 mile-an-hour speed limit consistently from Kimball Junction all the way into to town, I think it'll make a difference," Ferguson said. "And then along with that, needs to come enforcement."

John Gleason, Public Relations Director for UDOT, explained that they're studying the issue on SR 224 right now.

"With any issue, you want to find out exactly what you’re dealing with," he said.

Gleason talked about how they've seen success with the Parley's Canyon I-80 wildlife overpass. He said they're looking at if this area and location would be best served by that kind of mitigation.

"We want to have a clear understanding of the issue and this area and see how it compares to other areas that are nearby," he said.

Ferguson and Saunders welcome any proposed solutions and hope to move forward soon.

"There are options," Ferguson said. "We can work together."