Highway wildlife safety corridor along Highway 160 near Fort Garland to begin this summer

Photo courtesy of Colorado Department of Transportation Beginning this summer, the Colorado Department of Transportation will enlarge three existing underpasses along Highway 160 in Costilla County to afford safe passage to wildlife.

COSTILLA COUNTY — Each year in Colorado, there are over 4,100 large wildlife fatalities from motor vehicles hitting them on roads.

To reduce the number of these fatalities, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) has built numerous wildlife mitigation corridors throughout the state and will begin construction of one along a seven-mile stretch of Highway 160, just east of Fort Garland.

According to wildlife biologist Marx Lawler with CDOT, the project will begin at milepost 258.3 on Highway 160 and will consist of an 8-foot high fence that will funnel wildlife to three yet-to-be-constructed game underpasses that will be beneath the road where the animals will safely pass. They will be 13-feet tall, 26-feet wide, and 70-feet long.

The wildlife corridor will also include escape ramps that will allow animals to jump out of the fenced area if they are unable to find the underpasses. There will be four of these escape routes per mile along the corridor.

"As a wildlife biologist, I look at ways we can reduce the barrier created by our roads and increase the permeability to wildlife and connect habitats. Ultimately, as part of CDOT, I want to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions and provide motorists with safer highways,” said Lawler.

Most of the wildlife-vehicle fatalities in the area are mule deer and elk, added Lawler.

Elsewhere in Colorado, these structures have dramatically reduced wildlife mortality by as much as 80-90 percent.

Construction will begin in July or August and will require the use of flaggers to assist with traffic control, and motorists can expect standard construction delays. Construction will begin this summer with a hiatus for the winter, resume next summer, and be finished in late summer 2024.

The $12 million project is funded. The project "is happening, we are largely finished with design, environmental and utility right of way work. This project is coming," says Lawler.

According to the CDOT, while some collisions may be unavoidable, motorists can reduce the likelihood of an accident by taking the following precautions:

  • Slow Down! Driving more slowly increases reaction time and reduces the chance of a collision.​
  • Stay Alert while driving at dusk and dawn. This is when many of Colorado's wildlife are the most active and are likely to be crossing roadways.
  • Scan Ahead and watch for movement along roadsides. When driving at night, watch for shining eyes in headlights. Always look and be prepared for more than one animal.
  • Obey traffic signs and watch for wildlife warning signs.

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