We can plan on snow removal. We can plan on pavement repairs. We don’t plan on theft,” Gleason said. “These thieves hit us all, not only as taxpayers as we have to foot the bill, but also it affects safety. – John Gleason, Utah Department of Transportation spokesman
SALT LAKE CITY — The lights are back on along a busy stretch of I-15 that was left in the dark at night after a copper wire heist in March 2013.
Crews have been working over the past week to replace all the wire in the highway lights from about 1000 North to 1800 North.
"It's something that we feel is necessary, especially a long a corridor as heavily traveled as I-15,” Utah Department of Transportation spokesman John Gleason said. "It's not a requirement, but safety is a top priority."
Gleason said it took more than a year to flip the switch back on because UDOT was fearful the thieves might strike again.
"We're also making it harder to find the junction boxes," he said, "and where it's possible, we will be replacing this copper wire with aluminum."
Another reason for the delay is the cost of the repairs. Close to 30,000 feet of wire was ripped from 11 junction or access boxes worth about $50,000.
"We can plan on snow removal. We can plan on pavement repairs. We don't plan on theft,” Gleason said. "These thieves hit us all, not only as taxpayers as we have to foot the bill, but also it affects safety."
The Utah Highway Patrol said it has a sense of relief knowing its deputies and all drivers can be more easily seen on the highly traveled corridor.
"It helps us out,” UHP Sgt. Todd Royce said. “It helps us do our job, and it helps the public out, so these lights coming back on is a big deal."
Having the area lit up will help drivers see hazards that might be in the road, officials said.
The investigation into who stole the copper wire is ongoing. UDOT is asking drivers to keep their eyes open, and if they ever see anything suspicious on the freeways to call police immediately to help avoid this type of heist again.
The UDOT traffic operation center at 801-887-3700 can also tell motorists if the person has legitimate work at that location.