A wildlife overpass

Highway 9 in Colorado is getting a much-needed series of wildlife crossings; photo courtesy CDOT.

One of the most dangerous stretches of highway in Colorado is getting some help, thanks to a multimillion-dollar project to create wildlife crossings over and under Highway 9 in Summit and Grand counties, as Matt Kroschel writes for CBSDenver4. In an earlier article, he reported that this is a first of its kind in the state.

Workers will soon cover a concrete and metal crossing over Highway 9 in dirt, Kroschel writes, to make it animal-friendly. This overpass is expected to be completed by November, he writes. It is one of several being built over or under the dangerous 11-mile section of Highway 9 that runs from Kremlin to Silverthorne, Kroschel wrote in the earlier article.

CDOT writes:

Although the highway runs through many other counties, the narrow stretch of highway between mile marker (MM) 126 and 137, near the Green Mountain Dam Road and Colorado River Crossing, has been the site of numerous wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Dangerous Crossing

That section, which is narrow, bisects feeding and watering habitat frequently used by wildlife, CDOT writes. Nearly 500 animals were killed in the last decade and 16 people were killed in the last 20 years as a result of animals such as mule deer and elk trying to cross the road on that stretch of Highway 9, Kroschel writes. He quotes Michelle Cowardin of Colorado Parks & Wildlife as saying: “The entire stretch is a hotspot for roadkills.”

This project, which began in April, includes the following safety improvements: implementing wildlife mitigation features, such as fencing, underpasses, and overpasses to give wildlife a way to safely cross the highway, CDOT writes. The project also will add eight-foot shoulders to the road; improve roadway alignment to bring it in line with current design standards, straightening severe roadway curves and flattening steep hills to improve drivers’ sight distance; and make access and intersection improvements, CDOT writes.

Four wildlife crossings will be completed by November, and another three will be completed by November of next year, CDOT writes. The whole$39.2 million project is expected to be completed by July 2017. Kirkland Construction is the contractor, CDOT writes.

Fast Track

The project came about as a result of a partnership between CDOT, Grand County, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, and the Blue Valley Ranch, CDOT writes. It was chosen for RAMP funding. RAMP is an acronym for Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships. CDOT created RAMP to fast-track important road improvements. To qualify to be considered for RAMP, local governments must raise 20% of a project’s cost, CDOT writes in a press release.

CDOT’s Wildlife on the Move page offers the following advice to drivers:

‘As Colorado has an abundance of deer and elk, as well as other wildlife, that live near our urban and rural areas, motorists need to be aware that they can cross our roads without warning at most any time of day or night,’ said Colorado State Patrol Chief Colonel James Wolfinbarger. ‘Slow down and stay alert when you see a highway wildlife warning sign especially between dusk and dawn. If you see one deer or elk, expect others. Remember to scan ahead on the sides of the road for signs of movement and to watch for the shining eyes of animals that reflect car headlights at night. Most importantly, slow down and concentrate on retaining control of your vehicle. It is important to maintain control before, during and after a collision with an animal should one occur.’

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