Colorado Public Works Journal, Summer 2022

62| ColoradoPublic Works Journal CDOT Lisa Schwantes A newly completed wildlife mitigation project in southwest Colorado is the result of extraordinary collaboration among state and tribal agencies, as well as private organizations. The project built several wildlife safety features on U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs that will promote safer travel for motorists, enhance safer movement of wildlife, and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions along this section of highway. Partnership agencies include the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado Parks and Wildlife, Southern Ute Indian Tribe, National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Mule Deer Foundation, Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, and the Colorado Wildlife Transportation Alliance. “CDOT is extremely grateful for the phenomenal partnerships that have made this project feasible,” said Tony Cady, CDOT Planning and Environmental Manager for southwest Colorado. “These partnerships greatly leverage the individual contributions made by these different entities and will increase the return on our investments.” Not only did the agencies and organizations come forward with valuable funding commitments, but some agencies also contributed with studies, research, and development plans to make the project possible. For example, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe provided critical biological information to help design the project. “Hunting is an extremely important component to Southern Ute culture, and it is vital to keep these traditions alive," said Steve Whiteman, tribal wildlife division head. "The Tribe has long maintained a positive working relationship with the state of Colorado and was pleased with the collaboration to bring this important project into reality.” Meanwhile CPW experts identified the project location as an important area in the San Juan Basin for big game movements. Deer and elk herds cross the highway at this project location, moving to their range areas in the high country during the summer and to low grasslands in the winter. This big game corridor is a contributing factor to the fact that 60% of all crashes in the project area are attributed to wildlife-vehicle collisions. Without treatment, these numbers were expected to grow as wildlife-vehicle collisions continue to show an increasing trend since 2012. The project’s wildlife mitigation features can greatly enhance the safety along this stretch of highway for both motorists and wild animals and are expected to reduce those wildlife-vehicle collisions by at least 85%. The project spans approximately two miles and includes a wildlife underpass structure, a wildlife overpass structure, 8-foot-tall exclusion fencing along both sides of the highway, earthen escape ramps and deer guards at access points. The two-mile stretch of highway was newly resurfaced and included the extension of the passing lane and an acceleration lane at the CO Highway 151 junction. The two-season construction project was awarded to Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Co. of Utah for $8 million, while the total cost of the project is estimated at approximately $11.3 million, including design and planning. CDOT has built more than 60 wildlife mitigation structures that cross above or under highways throughout Colorado. Additionally, almost 500 miles of high big game fencing has been installed along state and U.S. highways or next to the interstates. Lisa Schwantes, CDOT Southwest Colorado Regional Communications Manager and can be reaced at Partnership project for wildlife crossings will make U.S. Highway 160 safer for drivers and animals