December 15th, 2011

WILDLIFE CONNECTIVITY

Uncategorized, by Catherine Higgins.

A replacement bridge planned for US-6 will include a much-needed Mule Deer crossing.

Wildlife crossings have helped improve safety on US-6 between Spanish Fork and Price, Utah. Cameras placed at wildlife crossings record still shots and video so researchers can observe wildlife. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Patricia Cramer, USU)

Helping wildlife cross safely will make the important route safer for road users.  The current structure is a box culvert with only enough for a stream. UDOT Structures Design Engineer Mark Daniels says the project involves overcoming a “geometrical challenge.” Designing the bridge with enough vertical clearance to accommodate a stream and a path for wildlife will require raising the elevation of the new road on a new alignment and redirecting the stream at two bends.

The bridge is being replaced as part of a comprehensive effort to improve safety on US-6. In 2005, UDOT received the final Record of Decision that outlined roadway improvements between Spanish Fork and Price, Utah. Since then, UDOT has straightened the road alignment in some locations, replaced bridges and added new wildlife crossings, wildlife fencing, general purpose and passing lanes, concrete barrier, guardrail, centerline and shoulder rumble stripes and warning signs.

UDOT has worked with The US-6 Wildlife Coordination Team throughout the process to improve safety on US-6. The team members come from FHWA, UDOT, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Utah Division of Wildlife Resources, the Bureau of Land Management, Uinta National Forest Service, and Utah State University. The team has worked to identify high wildlife-vehicle collision spots and make recommendations for improvements. UDOT has had good success at implementing those recommendations.

Habitat Biologist Doug Sakaguchi with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources has helped track high wildlife-vehicle hit areas for the committee since 2005. Data shows fewer hits have occurred in areas where new wildlife crossings have been built and fences have been installed over the past five years. The graph below shows an increase in average wildlife hits near the location where the new bridge will be built.

Experts are optimistic that a new bridge with a wildlife crossing will help reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Crossings and connected fencing work together to direct wildlife through crossings. The jump in wildlife hits shown on the graph is because “deer are finding that section where there’s no fence,” explains Sakaguchi.  He is optimistic that a crossing, in conjunction with fencing, will reduce the wildlife hits at the location. Since the two bridges on either side of the milepost 202 location work well for deer, Sakaguchi thinks that deer won’t be afraid to use the new crossing as well.

UDOT will keep traffic moving during construction by building the new bridge and then switching traffic to the new road alignment and structure before demolishing the old culvert.

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