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Wildlife advocates protest over lack of action on state Route 224

Save People Save Wildlife protestors hold up a sign along S.R. 224 Wednesday morning.
Sydney Weaver
Save People Save Wildlife protestors hold up a sign along S.R. 224 Wednesday morning.

Members of the nonprofit Save People Save Wildlife are using the busy holiday period to protest for safer animal crossings on state Route 224 in Park City.

Save People Save Wildlife is protesting in front of the McPolin Barn during the July 4 holiday to call for greater action to protect animals along the busy road that runs between Park City and Interstate-80.

A 2019 Utah Department of Transportation study ranked state Route 224 as the fifth worst road in Utah for vehicle-wildlife collisions.

A 2022 UDOT study found that there were four collisions per mile each year between vehicles and wildlife on S.R. 224.

Lorelai Combs was one Save People Save Wildlife member protesting near car traffic Wednesday morning. The group held signs calling out Park City Mayor Nann Worel for the lack of progress to create a safe wildlife crossing.

“We presented close to 1,000 letters to the city council from the public requesting safe passage for S.R. 224, and we’ve raised over $240,000 of donations for safe passage for 224,” Combs said. “They returned our letters, and quite frankly, we don’t know if they were even read, and they never even and specifically Nann Worel, never even addressed the public.”

City officials dispute the assertion that they didn’t hear the group out, but wouldn’t comment further Wednesday.

Ultimately, UDOT controls the funding and design of the state road, and any wildlife crossing falls on its approval.

Save People Save Wildlife has long lobbied UDOT to take action.

But UDOT spokesman John Gleason says a crossing on S.R. 224 just doesn’t make practical sense to the agency. Gleason made the comments during a KPCW Local News Hour interview in April.

“This is not a traditional migratory path for the animals,” Gleason said. “If we were able to build a crossing, essentially you’d just be transporting those animals in a neighborhood, and they wouldn’t have anywhere else to go.”

Gleason says they are making smaller changes to reduce the risk of vehicle wildlife collisions.

“Reducing the speed limit, putting in more signs to draw drivers attention to the issue, and we’re going to continue to look at other potential solutions as well, maybe even wildlife detection systems, more fencing,” he said.

UDOT reduced the speed limit on S.R. 224 from 55 mph to 45 mph in 2022.

Save People Save Wildlife has also been critical of High Valley Transit, which plans to widen S.R. 224 as part of its bus rapid transit project between Park City and Kimball Junction. High Valley Transit Executive Director Caroline Rodriquez also says slower speed limits and signs are best. Rodriquez says a wildlife crossing on S.R. 224 isn’t supported by the agency’s data.

UDOT is pursuing a grant to help with a $30 million proposal that would add and refurbish wildlife crossings in Echo, where I-80 and I-84 meet.

The Federal Highway Administration has millions of dollars of funding available for wildlife crossings as part of the bipartisan infrastructure law passed by Congress in 2021.

KPCW Producer Sydney Weaver contributed to this report.