Copper thieves strike legacy Parkway, again

Friday , January 06, 2012 - 2:51 PM

CENTERVILLE -- The lights are out again on the Legacy Parkway.

Thieves recently stole more than 7,000 feet of copper wire from the Parrish Lane Interchange lighting system on the Legacy Parkway in Centerville.

Utah Department of Transportation Region One spokesman Vic Saunders said the theft probably occurred just a few days before the new year and losses for the state total more than $17,000.

Saunders said the same interchange has been hit by thieves multiple times since the Parkway opened in 2008.

"We've spent over $50,000 at that interchange," he said. "It's definitely a problem spot for us."

Saunders said UDOT crews have tried to halt potential thieves in the area by putting gravel inside of the junction boxes that hold the wire, but apparently that measure hasn't worked.

"We are going to have to step things up," he said. "Which is sad, because it's going to cost us as an organization more money and it's going to cost the taxpayer more money, all because of a few people."

Saunders said the state will now likely put concrete inside the junction boxes that hold copper wire.

John Leonard, UDOT Traffic and Safety operations engineer, said the state has had problems with copper wire thieves for decades.

"I've been aware of it since the early 90s," Leonard said. "It's something we're still trying to combat.

Typically, the thieves will tie the wire to the bumper of their vehicle and drive off, pulling the wire behind them. The wire is then taken to a salvage yard or recycling center for money.

Saunders said UDOT has been in contact with local salvage and recycling centers and now many of those centers will no longer accept copper wire.

"But (the thieves) can still find ways to get money for it," Saunders said. "Whether they take it out of state, or they find the rare place that will pay them for it, they are finding ways."

On Interstate 15 and other state highways, UDOT is beginning to replace old signs with a new type of sign that is much more reflective and will make active lighting unnecessary, reducing the need for copper wire.

Meanwhile, the lighting is still out at the Parrish Lane Interchange, but Saunders said crews would soon be out to the location to make repairs.

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