A Safe Passage
Wildlife including mule deer, elk and bear are now able to safely cross a busy highway in Colorado thanks to a transportation solution designed to help protect wildlife and motorists from highway collisions.
In 2016, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), in cooperation with Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) and many other partners, completed Colorado’s first-of-its-kind wildlife overpass and underpass system on Highway 9 between Green Mountain Reservoir and Kremmling. This innovative solution to keeping wildlife off a busy road resulted in a 90 percent reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions.
The nearly 11-mile stretch of road bisects important wildlife habitat and movement corridors, specifically, mule deer and elk winter range. Prior to the project, an average of 63 wildlife carcasses were recorded along this stretch of road each winter, 98 percent of which were mule deer. According to CDOT, wildlife-vehicle collisions accounted for 35 percent of all reported crash types from 2007-2011. The Highway 9 wildlife safety improvement project was designed to improve driver safety while maintaining connectivity of wildlife movement across the road.
This project includes:
- two wildlife overpasses,
- five wildlife underpasses,
- nine pedestrian walk-throughs,
- 61 wildlife escape ramps,
- 29 wildlife guards, all of which are connected by an 10.3 miles of eight foot high wildlife fence.
CDOT, CPW and ECO-resolution initiated a 5-year effectiveness monitoring study from November 2015 through May 2020. The research documented 112,678 mule deer successful passages through or over the seven crossing structures. Combined with an overall success rate of 96% of mule deer utilizing the structures, these results indicate that the project has been highly effective in accommodating mule deer movement. Other species using the structures, although fewer in number, include elk, pronghorn, moose, bighorn sheep, black bear, mountain lion, and coyote. There has also been at least one recorded underpass crossing by turkeys and river otters.
Researchers also evaluated the effectiveness of wildlife guards, escape ramps and fence-ends. The effectiveness of these mitigation features are important to keep animals out of the fenced right-of-way or to allow animals a safe method to exit if they get into the fenced right-of-way.
A Safe Passage Slideshow