UDOT reduces speed limits around Echo Junction amid elk collisions

Feb 10, 2023, 7:52 AM

SUMMIT COUNTY, Utah — Amid a staggering number of recent collisions with elk, the Utah Department of Transportation on Thursday reduced the speed limit to 60 mph on Interstates 80 and 84 in the area of Echo Junction.

Crews had already installed electronic signs warning about the potential wildlife hazard, according to UDOT spokesman John Gleason.

Gleason said since last Friday, crews believed as many as 35 elk had been struck by vehicles in the area.

Utah Highway Patrol Sgt. Steve Matthews said troopers alone had responded to 30 collisions around the junction and reservoir recently.

“We’ve had crashes — everything from commercial vehicles to small passenger cars up there in the last two weeks,” Matthews told KSL TV. “It’s a lot bigger problem than we’ve ever had in the past.”

Mark Hadley, conservation outreach manager for the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources’ northern region, said elk have been coming down to lower elevations in search of food due to the substantial amount of snow at higher elevations.

He said when he surveyed the area on Tuesday, he believed there were still roughly 75 elk in the area.

“It’s definitely a magnificent sight,” said Levi Hancock as he stood at the overlook and watched a herd of elk make its way across the iced-over reservoir. “Obviously they’re looking for food and they’re hungry.”

Gleason said it was unclear exactly how long the speed limit would be reduced and was dependent upon when officers and scientists with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources believed the risk had been adequately mitigated.

Matthews urged drivers to keep their speeds down around the junction and to keep an eye on the side of the road as well as the road itself.

“It’s very hard to see the sides of the road at night, so a reduced speed would definitely help,” Matthews said.

Hancock said he saw a close call with a deer on the way to the overlook and acknowledged the potential hazard was ever present and even more so this winter.

“We’ll do crazy things when we’re hungry,” Hancock said. “We’ve definitely got to watch out for them.”

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UDOT reduces speed limits around Echo Junction amid elk collisions