Utah Department of Transportation Public Information Officer John Gleason and Natural Resource Manager Matt Howard discuss wildlife safety efforts on state Route 224 after Save People Save Wildlife voiced concerns.

Save People Save Wildlife Response:

Observations on KPCW interview with John Gleason and Matt Howard

Parker, we enjoyed your interview with John Gleason and Matt Howard. Just wanted to point out a few observations that may be of interest to your audience.

The entire Snyderville Basin is a wildlife habitat. It includes a migratory corridor for some species, but it is also where our local wildlife live year-round.

SR 224 cuts right through the middle of the basin, cutting our wildlife’s habitat in half. Our local wildlife has no other option but to cross SR 224 on a regular basis. As part of their daily behavior, they move from one part of the basin to another or, in other words, they move from one neighborhood to another, which is their neighborhood as well as ours. A wildlife crossing on SR 224 would allow our wildlife to cross safely and be safer for our motorists, who make 30,000 annual average daily trips on SR 224.

The study you mentioned identified SR 224 as the fifth worst highway in Utah with 2.97 vehicle wildlife collisions per mile per year. UDOT did a more recent study that also shows the high level of vehicle wildlife collisions on SR 224. The study (Wildlife Vehicle Collision Study, SR-224, Summit County, prepared for Utah Department of Transportation, prepared by BIO-WEST, INC, January 2022), documented 247 vehicle wildlife collisions between 2010 and 2020 at a cost of $7.5 million.

To the motorists in those accidents, it’s a moot point whether the wildlife are local or migrating. Why isn’t a local wildlife habitat as important as a traditional migratory area? Our wildlife are here all the time, not just during a migratory season.

UDOT talked about their statewide perspective to address high priority areas. UDOT just got funding to do a project on US 89 outside of Kanab. This stretch of highway has 15 vehicle wildlife collisions per year compared to SR 224 with 24, which is 160% higher. I80 and I84 at Echo Junction, where UDOT is seeking federal funds for a $30 million project, was identified as the 18th worst in the same study that showed SR 224 as the fifth. From a safety perspective and reducing crashes as a high priority focus, addressing SR 224 would produce greater benefit.

UDOT mentioned the value of economy of scale by doing a crossing with an existing project. What are the existing projects to tie into on US 89 and I80/I84? It should be pointed out that there will be an existing project on SR 224 that a crossing could capitalize on an economy of scale. That project is the Bus Rapid Project (BRT) that will significantly widen SR 224, and make it even more impermeable for wildlife to cross. The area where the crossing is most needed also has some topography advantages that UDOT discussed in regards to the Parley’s overpass.

Finally, UDOT mentioned that a wildlife crossing on SR 224 would not solve the problem. Research has shown that crossings and fencing are over 90% effective. UDOT would not share any of their documentation supporting their NO decision for a crossing on SR 224. The public is entitled to know, so SPSW has filed a GRAMA request to get the information to share with the public.

SPSW will gladly share all information with KPCW.