The State of Utah is considering installing miles of wildlife fencing to keep deer off the highway between Monticello and Blanding. Details were discussed at a May 16 meeting of the Utah Transportation Commission, which governs the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT).
The group met in Monticello to discuss road needs in San Juan County and throughout the state.
Other projects discussed include public transportation from San Juan County to Salt Lake City, the ferry at Lake Powell and the highway bridge at Mexican Hat.
Residents of San Juan County have long known that Highway 191 between Monticello and Blanding is the site of many collisions between vehicles and deer.
That knowledge was quantified in a high-needs assessment submitted by the Division of Wildlife Resources that captured the attention of the UDOT commission. The result is a proposal for a wildlife fence on the Highway 191.
The project will start with $280,000 of fencing. More fencing will be added in phases in years to come.
The fences will have electric mats on both ends to prevent animals from getting caught inside the fence line.
To show support for the project, San Juan County and Sportsmen for Fish and Wildlife each donated $25,000 towards the project.
Commissioner Kent Millington, who has spent nine years on the commission, was shocked by the donation. He said, “I applaud those that are here. Putting their money where their mouth is, I think that’s fantastic.”
Cost for the fencing depends on the topography of the area. While the cost of each mile of fencing is about $40,000, tunnels underneath the highway for migrating animals will cost about $120,000 each.
The $6 million project was recommended as a “low-cost, high-return project.”
A study by Montana State University estimates that each wildlife vehicle collision costs an average of $8,388.
With more than 300 wildlife -vehicle accidents occurring each year, UDOT predicts that the completed project could pay for itself between three and five years.
In another major announcement at the meeting, the commission stated that a bus line between Blanding and Salt Lake City will begin operations in coming months.
The buses will include TV screens, a lavatory and internet Wi-Fi. A trip will cost an estimated $65 to $75.
UDOT is providing an annual subsidy of more than $864,000 to support the new bus service. It is being offered by Elevated Transit.
The commission also reported on the progress of the Lake Powell ferry, which runs between the marinas at Bullfrog and Halls Crossing.
UDOT estimates that the ferry will be up and running near the end of the summer.
San Juan County Commissioner Phil Lyman spoke to the council about the importance of the ferry and how the county doesn’t want to see the demise of the transportation corridor.
Lyman brought up the economic impact of the two marinas and how he hopes that Hall Crossing will be able to improve its economic output.
San Juan County Commissioner Bruce Adams also addressed the commissioners.
Adams mentioned the state involvement with county roads all the way back to the dynamite provided by the state to build the Hole in the Rock trail in 1880.
Adams is pleased that UDOT is addressing the need for pull-off points in Monument Valley. Adams also requested that UDOT consider dangers of the Mexican Hat Bridge on Highway 163.
Adams said that the steep hill, narrow road, and sharp turns at the bridge have proven dangerous and even deadly in the past. Whether expansion or building a completely new bridge is necessary is not clear.
The Commission did not make a decision regarding the bridge, but said they are now more fully aware of the problem.