SALT LAKE CITY — The lights are out along part of I-15 and the Utah Department of Transportation is still trying to get to the bottom of what has become the largest copper wire theft in UDOT's history.
Earlier this year, 11 junction boxes between 1000 North and 1800 North were ripped from the poles and those crooks are still on the loose. Drivers have to brave the dark stretch of freeway at night and in the early morning.
"We haven't had any arrests," said John Gleason, spokesperson for the Utah Department of Transportation. "We are still asking the public to keep their eyes open."
UDOT says they don't have any money in their budget to replace the wiring. $60,000 of copper wire was stolen . When you consider what the new wire will cost plus the payout for employees to install it, UDOT says it's going to be a pretty penny.
"This affects you and me and all of us," Gleason said. "This is money that's targeted for snow removal."
Gleason says if they have the funds, they will replace it with something other than copper.
"When an area is hit, we replace it with aluminum wire, which is much less valuable for these crooks," he said.
UDOT says the people responsible would have likely dressed up as a construction crew, but now, officials in the area are trying to stop any criminals future plans.
"UHP (are) actually stopping some of our contractors to see if they should be in the area," he said.
Within the last two years, UDOT has spent $450,000 replacing copper wiring — that's all taxpayers' money, essentially down the drain.
"That's what is so frustrating for this type of act, for our crews to replace this," Gleason said.
John Gleason says after the winter season, once they've used the money needed for snow removal, they'll be able to start fixing the area. They have to be extra cautious, however. If they replace the wire and the crooks are still out there, they could come on back for round two.