Bears, elk and small game animals make a star appearance using Colorado’s newest wildlife underpasses, some of the largest in North America.
The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife announced substantial completion of the underpasses along a rural stretch of Interstate 25 between Colorado’s two largest cities, Denver and Colorado Springs. The wildlife mitigation system is part of a transportation improvement project, known as the I-25 South Gap project, that will greatly improve safety and travel on 18 miles of I-25 south of the Denver metropolitan region. On average, over 87,000 motorists drive this route daily.
“Our nation-leading wildlife corridor program is improving safety and reducing wildlife and vehicle collisions on I-25 and across our state,” said Governor Jared Polis. “I appreciate the work of CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew, state workers at the Department of Transportation and Colorado Parks and Wildlife who are working to protect Coloradans and the wildlife we all love.”
“One of CDOT’s core values is safety, and we are thrilled to deliver on this value to all who use I-25 in the area,” said Lew. “In Colorado, nearly 4,000 animal-vehicle crashes are reported annually, resulting in injuries and fatalities to people and costing an estimated $80 million. In the I-25 South Gap, it is estimated that one animal-vehicle crash occurs per day. Our wildlife mitigation system aims to reduce these crashes by 90 percent.”
Wildlife is essential to Colorado’s outdoor recreation, economy and landscape heritage. As Colorado’s population continues to grow, it places pressure on the natural habitats wildlife depends on for survival. Surrounding the I-25 South Gap between the towns of Monument and Castle Rock is open space and the largest contiguous wildlife habitat along Colorado’s Front Range.
“CDOT met with various agencies, including CPW, early in the planning process to come up with a collaborative solution,” said Brandon Marette, Land Use Coordinator for CPW’s Northeast Region. “Fast forward from our first collaboration meeting nearly five years ago to today – where wildlife is now using the underpasses that we planned together. There is more collaboration to come between our agencies – as we continue to plan and implement strategies to keep both people and wildlife species safe, thus protecting what is unique to Colorado.”
The I-25 South Gap project’s wildlife mitigation system includes four new and one refurbished wildlife underpasses, 28 miles of deer fencing and deer guards and jump-outs. Work on the underpasses is substantially complete and 87% of deer fencing is installed, just in time to shepherd migrating wildlife safely under the interstate this fall. CDOT and CPW are now in the process of installing 59 cameras throughout the wildlife mitigation system to help measure success. Looking to the immediate future, CDOT is currently designing a wildlife overpass south of the Greenland Road interchange in Larkspur on I-25, but it does not have funding for construction yet.
For more information visit www.codot.gov/projects/i25-south-gap/wildlife.