With the Summit County Council only a few weeks away from approving their 2020 budget, the group Save People Save Wildlife is asking them to fund increased animal fencing along the highways in the Snyderville Basin.
While the group is asking for a significant chunk of change, they say it is worth it for the safety benefits—or to avoid the costs of not doing something to mitigate vehicle-wildlife collisions.
Tom Farkas, from the Save Wildlife group, appeared before the County Council November 20th, to suggest that they add some $1.94 million to the budget.
He said for that cost, they could extend the current wildlife fencing and other items along Interstate 80, running from the Jeremy Ranch area eastward along the Interstate to about half a mile from Silver Creek Junction. Fencing could also be extended along both sides of U.S. 40 to the Silver Summit Interchange.
“You’re talking about fencing on both sides. So it’s about 12.75 miles of fencing that needs to be installed. And then of course to complete the protection, you need to have cattle guards at the on and off ramps at each of those interchanges. So we’ve estimated the cost of the fencing at $1.1 million, and the cattle guards at .84. So that’s where you get the $1.94 in for the cost.”
Farkas, and Erin Ferguson, also from Save People Save Wildlife, said the cost would be worth it. They cited data from UDOT on the costs of a human fatality in collisions with animals.
“They’ve shown that the cost of one vehicle/wildlife fatality accident is $5.35 million dollars. (Ferguson) And that’s when the motorist loses their life. (Farkas) Yeh, this particular report doesn’t even include the cost of the wildlife. It’s just the person. So if we could spend $1.94 million to save $5.38 million, that’s a benefit/cost ratio of at least 2.7—which, I think, in most government agencies, as long as they can clear a cost/benefit ration of 1, it’s doable.”
Farkas said it would take too long if their group, or UDOT, has to come up with the funding for mitigation.
“It would take, just between Save People Save Wildlife raising money, and UDOT coming up with some discretionary funds at the end of each year—it would take over 20 years to complete the gaps that we’re talking about.”
The County Council is due to approve their 2020 budget in a little more than two weeks. Farkas said they will ask the County is they can shift some funding from items that may not be as urgent, or cannot show the same cost/benefit ratio.
“Instead of spending maybe, and I think there was some discussion about a beautification project at the Jeremy Ranch roundabouts. I’m all for that, but maybe the fencing ought to be done before the beautification, because having dead wildlife on the side of the road is hardly enhancing the beauty of Summit County.”
He said this is their priority, although later on, would like to address other highways in the area.
“We’re not saying that work doesn’t need to be done on other highways, like 224 or 248. But this is where we’ve started. My analogy is if we don’t complete fencing on 80 and up to 40, it’s like spending the money to build an energy-efficient home and then leaving your door open. It’s just not effective.”
Speaking of Highway 224, Ferguson said they’re running regular newspaper ads to promote a petition, in favor of a wildlife overpass on the roadway, at the entry to Park City near the iconic McPolin Barn. She said it would cost somewhere between $10-15 million and would be designed as a greenway.
“And we want to have an aesthetic gateway to Park City proper. So it’s not going to be—in our vision, we don’t want to have a cement, blocky bridge-like urban interface in the middle of this beautiful scenic space. And I think, if you have that added to the landscape, you have the already-set-aside space and historic features like the barn. I mean, it’s—I think it would only add to that, and then, I would much rather see wildlife crossing the bridge at dawn, than waiting in traffic because elk have been killed on the highway.”
Erin Ferguson and Tom Farkas from Save People Save Wildlife, who said to sign the petition, you can go online to “change.org.”