Research on improving wildlife connectivity has helped improved safety on state roads.
This post is third in a series about how research supports innovation at UDOT. Many in the transportation community and the general public are familiar with UDOT’s method of building bridges off-site and then moving them into place. Other important innovations garner less attention. See the first post about fish-friendly culverts here and the second post about pre-cast panels here.
UDOT has been working with the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources and researchers to track the success of wildlife crossings. The research has helped both state agencies to meet the important goals of making roads safer for people and wildlife. As more knowledge is gained about what makes a wildlife crossing accommodating to wildlife, UDOT and DWR have improved crossings by adding additional features.
A new I-80 bridge over the Weber River provides an example of how UDOT, DWR have partnered to improve an important wildlife crossing. Part of the bridge project included pathways for people and wildlife along with wildlife exclusion fencing to direct animals to use the path.
Dr. Patricia Cramer, Utah State University Researcher Assistant Professor began monitoring and tracking wildlife passage by placing motion activated cameras to capture images of wildlife using the path. While placing the cameras, Cramer noticed some of the fencing blocked the crossing and she made suggestions for a new configuration.
UDOT and UDWR agency representatives met and planned two escape ramps would be constructed on the fence line on the west side of the highway on both sides of the river. Cramer monitored the crossing before and after the escape routes were constructed. Before the ramps, fifteen deer were recorded near the ramp but only 2 used the crossing successfully. After the escape ramps were constructed, cameras recorded seventy nine deer approaching the ramp and fifty seven deer successfully using the crossing.
Research at the site is showing that the passage rate of mule deer is steadily improving. Cramer has studied many crossings in Utah, and her research was originally funded by UDOT’s Research Division. UDWR is funding Cramer’s research and UDOT and UDWR will continue to work together to plan and improved effective crossings by using Cramer’s research.
For more about how UDOT and crossings:
Read an article on the USU website about Cramer.
Read a blog post about how UDOT partnered with UDWR and won an award from FHWA.
Read a blog post about a high-arch crossing and how elk are beginning to use the crossing.