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New policy announced following massive Big Cottonwood Canyon backup

Big Cottonwood Canyon Accident.jpg
Posted at 2:54 PM, Jan 26, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-27 13:02:35-05

SALT LAKE CITY — A new policy has been announced just days after drivers in Big Cottonwood Canyon were left idling for up to five hours while crews cleared a multi-vehicle accident.

The Unified Police Department announced on social media Tuesday that moving forward, accident vehicles that end up in Big Cottonwood or Little Cottonwood Canyons will remain there unless an active leak exists. This will allow traffic continue to flow up and down the canyon without disruption.

On Sunday, a pickup truck and Subaru collided near the "S" curve about four miles up the canyon. Both vehicles slid off the side of the road and went roughly 40-feet down into the ravine below.

Both directions of State Route 190 were closed for hours as Unified Fire Authority crews rappelled down a steep ravine to extricate and rescue some of the crash victims.

After reopening at 4:30 p.m., traffic was shut down again 45 minutes later to allow tow trucks to remove the vehicles. By the time the road reopened at 7 p.m., a line several miles long had formed.

Salt Lake City Public Utilities said no contamination had been detected from either vehicle, leaving it a mystery as to why traffic was stopped to have them removed.

In its tweet Tuesday, UPD said the decision was made to leave vehicles in place to prevent future traffic situations, but warned drivers of the unique features of the environment.

"Please keep in mind that during the winter season, Big Cottonwood and Little Cottonwood Canyons have only ONE point of entry." the tweet read. "Certain events, including serious and/or multiple accidents, avalanche, extreme weather or other catastrophe may prevent vehicles from entering or exiting the canyons for extended periods of time."