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PARLEYS CANYON — The state’s newest overpass created solely for wildlife to cross officially opened Thursday.
A moose was even spotted for the official ribbon cutting.
The overpass was designed to help animals cross safely and reduce the number of traffic accidents in Parleys Canyon.
Complete with boulders and logs, the snow-covered path stretches across six lanes of Interstate 80. While saving the lives of animals is a bonus, the overpass was built to increase the safety of drivers along the freeway.
Big game often cross the roads between Mountain Dell and Jeremy Ranch. In the past two years, drivers have reported more than 100 wildlife-vehicle crashes in the area, and it’s estimated the number of unreported collisions is four times as many.
Construction for the $5 million state-funded project has been going on since spring.
“From the Division of Wildlife Resources standpoint, the No. 1 benefit is public safety,” said Scott Root, DWR’s conservation outreach manager.
Root said considering how many collisions with wildlife the overpass can prevent, it “would pay for itself down the road in 10, 20 years, we’re hoping.”
A total of six miles of fencing was put on both sides of I-80 around the bridge to guide the wildlife to the overpass.
The overpass is not open to the public and people are asked to stay away from the area so animals feel comfortable crossing.
The wildlife overpass becomes the second in Utah, after one was constructed in southern Utah in the 1970s that is still in operation.
Editor's note: This story initially said this was the first wildlife overpass in Utah, but it is actually the second. That has been corrected.