SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah - Six thousand feet of wildlife fencing is going up along I-80 in Parley’s Canyon at the Jeremy Ranch exit.
The Utah Department of Transportation started building the new fencing on Monday, August 28. Crews put up the first mile stretch of wildlife fencing in October. UDOT said it is all part of a $5 million project to better protect drivers from hitting an animal on the freeway and risking injury or death to both the people in the car and the animal.
UDOT said since last August, 26 deer, five moose, and one bear have been hit or killed along that section of I-80 in Parley’s Canyon. In 2015, 49 deer, five moose and one elk were killed, and in 2014, 32 deer, two moose and one elk were hit and killed.
The treasurer of a non-profit organization, Sharon Cantwell, has lived in Park City for ten years and said she has seen countless roadkill and accidents that were animal-related along I-80.
“We are standing here on the side of I-80 which we often refer to as the ‘death corridor’ for our local wildlife in Park City,” Cantwell said.
Her group has been pushing and working with UDOT and raising money for this fencing for years. Cantwell said it was nice to see the first stretch go up last October, and said she has already seen an improvement.
“Today is the ground breaking of the second mile which is across from the original mile that our group helped fund to the tune of $42,000," Cantwell said. "Within the last year we have seen a reduction of road deaths just with the one mile of fencing that runs along the Jeremy Ranch corridor down by 12 lives. So, we have actually saved 12 lives just with the addition of the new fencing.”
UDOT project manager John Montoya said the fencing is eight-feet high. This stretch is along the eastbound side of I-80 from Jeremy Ranch for one mile going west and then another 1,400-feet.
“At the summit we'll be building a wildlife bridge starting next spring, which will allow wildlife to cross over I-80 without having to cross directly on I-80,” Montoya said. “Vehicles are traveling 70 miles-per-hour through here, some faster and coming across a large elk or moose or bear- which has happened- I think we have seen some negative outcomes to those interactions. Our goal is to make this location safer from the climbing [truck] lanes to the bridge to the fencing.”
The project is ahead of schedule. It should be complete in 2018 to 2019 at the latest.