PARLEYS CANYON (ABC4 News) – Aerial fire operations forced the closure of Interstate 80 in Parleys Canyon for most of the day Friday and that extended closure of the main route between the Salt Lake Valley and the Wasatch Back has created a traffic nightmare for drivers who had to make the decision to go north or south around the closure.
Severing the main artery between Park City and Salt Lake City caused gridlock and headaches for tens of thousands of drivers.
“Anytime we have to close down a major freeway there’s going to be a lot of people that are inconvenienced,” Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason told ABC4 News. “We see about 60 to 65,000 vehicles every day in Parley’s Canyon and so all of those vehicles are going to have to take a different route. That’s a lot of people.”
Drivers were forced to drive around the closure to the north via Interstate 84 through Weber Canyon or Highway 189 through Provo Canyon, each adding approximately an hour to a normally 40-minute drive.
A third alternate, over Guardsman Pass and through Big Cottonwood Canyon, is very narrow and twisting. It was shut down for part of Friday afternoon because of a jackknifed semi-truck, creating miles-long backups.
“There’s just too many people trying to access it right now so we’re asking people to stay to those two main routes,” Gleason said.
With the situation changing rapidly, Gleason suggests checking the UDOT app for the latest closures and travel times.
“You want to make sure that you know all of the information before you hit the road,” Gleason said. “You don’t want to be stuck in these tie-ups, this congestion if you can avoid it.”
I-80 was scheduled to be closed until 9 p.m. Friday.