SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah – Late last year, UDOT built a wildlife bridge over I-80 at Parleys Summit to cut down on dangerous automobile collisions with animals. But, is the expensive overpass making a difference? The Utah Department of Transportation and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources now have evidence that wild animals are using it.
When UDOT completed the overpass in December and opened it for wildlife, they were not certain that it would work. But, they now have video of animals finding their way to safe passage over the interstate.
“I was very pleasantly surprised,“ said Scott Root with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.
He said the overpass was designed to let animals cross safely and reduce the number of crashes with wildlife in Parleys Canyon.
“A lot of concern from residents: there are so many animals getting hit by cars. Again safety is our number one priority,” said Root.
Plenty of animals this spring are using the $5 million bridge, staying out of traffic. Video images captured by the DWR show moose, deer, and even mountain lions using the overpass.
“The fencing along I 80 will help funnel those animals right into this spot, and they’ll head right up into that wonderful habitat and then back again,“ he said.
Big game regularly cross I 80 between Mountain Dell and Jeremy Ranch. In the past two years, drivers have reported more than 100 wildlife-vehicle crashes, and it’s estimated the number of unreported collisions is four times that many.
UDOT does not have new meaningful crash statistics since the overpass was installed. But, the pictures let them know it’s working.
“It’s not something that they adapt to suddenly,“ said John Gleason, a UDOT spokesman. “We’re seeing results, and it’s an unexpected success to see results this early. We thought it would take potentially years for the wildlife to be familiar and to start using this bridge.”
But, they’ve also spotted humans skiing, hiking, and biking across the bridge. They’re pleading people to stay away.
“Because wildlife will not pass,” said Root. “This fencing goes a long way down I 80, and if they’ve worked their way all the way up here and then there’s somebody here, we don’t want to stress out those animals anymore.“
Following the success here, UDOT may look for other places to install similar overpasses where crossings have been a problem.