New overpass finished at Parleys summit — just for wildlife to cross I-80

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune) The first overpass for wildlife at the summit of Parleys Canyon crosses I-80 near Exit 140. Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018.

The Utah Department of Transportation on Thursday completed an overpass just for wildlife — crossing six lanes of Interstate 80 — at the summit of Parleys Canyon.

In the past two years, 106 animals were struck and killed in that area — 98 deer, three moose, two raccoons, two elk and a cougar.

The overpass, about 50 feet wide and 320 feet long, is aimed at reducing these collisions. It has rocks, boulders and logs to mimic the surrounding landscape. Fencing has been placed on both sides of the freeway for 3.5 miles around the overpass to help funnel wildlife to it.

“We ask people to please stay off the overpass so wildlife are encouraged to use it,” said UDOT spokesman John Gleason “Please help us to keep it wild.”

It is the first time that UDOT has built a large bridge specifically for wildlife, although the agency does have a bridge over Interstate 15 in southern Utah for wildlife that first served as a vehicle bridge. It also has a wildlife underpass under U.S. 40 near Park City.

Concern over the high number of animal deaths around Parleys summit led to the 2015 formation of a Park City nonprofit called Save People, Save Wildlife — which has helped raise money for wildlife fencing along the freeway and kept pressure on UDOT for improvements.

Wildlife overpasses built elsewhere have proved successful. On the Trans-Canada Highway in Banff National Park, wildlife collisions decreased 80 percent after overpasses and other mitigation measures were installed. Several new overpasses in Colorado also saw immediate mortality reductions.

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