In December 2018, the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) unveiled the largest wildlife overpass in the state. Spanning 320 by 50 feet, the bridge towers over all six lanes of Interstate 80 (I-80) in Summit County, Utah so that local animals, including moose, elk, raccoons, and deer, can migrate safely.
The wildlife passageway over I-80 was part of a $22 million project funded by UDOT, which also included the construction of a new lane designated for oversized vehicles between Jeremy Ranch and Parleys Summit, and repaving between Kimball Junction and Lambs Canyon. A grant of $5 million was specifically set aside for the new animal crossing, as “Something like this wouldn’t always work as a standalone project,” UDOT spokesperson John Gleason explained to ParkRecord.
UDOT consulted the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources to map wildlife migration patterns in the area and subsequently pinpoint the ideal location for the bridge’s construction. I-80 had become one of the riskiest stretches of highway in the state, acquiring the unfortunate nickname of “Slaughter Row” for the high concentration of animal collisions. The Salt Lake City Tribune reported more than 100 animal accidents since 2016, resulting primarily in the deaths of deer, as well as moose, elk, raccoons, and a cougar. The animal advocacy group Save People Save Wildlife, founded in 2015 and “…dedicated to raising awareness and educating Park City residents to respect wildlife and give them the tools they need to coexist with the nature around them,” consequently called upon UDOT in 2016 for an overpass as local wildlife populations were noticeably waning from so many fatal accidents.
While experts predict that animals may initially avoid the bridge, a three-mile cattle fence was instituted to facilitate wildlife migration toward the overpass. With time, it’s believed that migrating animals will learn to trust and use it, and that the bridge will not only ensure their safety, but also protect drivers from dangerous collisions. The bridge is covered with logs and boulders to blend in with the surrounding landscape and entice animals to walk across it.
The I-80 overpass is now the second of its kind in the state. The first wildlife bridge was built in the southern region of Utah in the 1970s, and it remains in use.
Know Before You Go
The I-80 wildlife crossing is located at the summit of Parleys Canyon. The crossing is for animals only. People are asked to avoid it completely so as not to discourage wildlife from approaching the bridge.