Wildlife fence aims to make I-70 safer
EAGLE COUNTY – Gabe Kennedy saw a car hit a young black bear about a month ago from his home. A couple days later, he saw a deer get hit, he said. So a fence that would prevent elk, deer and bears from crossing interstate 70 sounds like a good idea to Kennedy, of Eagle. “Overall, I know it’s probably a good a idea because there are a ton of animals that get hit there,” Kennedy said. The $1.7 million metal, wire-woven fence will stretch from Dowd Junction to Eagle at least 17 miles on both sides of Interstate 70 where collisions between wildlife and vehicles most often occur, said Peter Kozinski of the Colorado Department of Transportation.
In Singletree, crews may set the fence farther away from homes and will dig into the ground to form a horizontal platform. That will make the fence appear lower from uphill to keep the good view, he said. Wildlife and vehicle collisions accounted for 17 percent of all accidents on the stretch of interstate between 2000 and 2004, said Nancy Shanks, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation. Out of 1,512 accidents during that five-year period, 263 involved animals. The number of animals was probably higher because not everyone reports road kill, she said.The Colorado Department of Transportation does not have statistics on wildlife and vehicle collisions from 2005 and on, Shanks said.Driving in the valley is dangerous and $1.7 million seems cheap considering the lives it could save by preventing accidents, said Paul Maloney, of Avon. Maloney has three daughters and he worries about their safety on the interstate, he said. “Thankfully they’ve all been safe, but they’ve lost a lot of friends,” Maloney said.
Maloney hopes officials will plan better than they did for the Dowd Junction concrete barrier and paving projects, he said. The work, which began more than three months ago, caused long traffic delays between Vail and Avon.”That whole project was a joke,” Maloney said. “We were backed up all summer.”One lane could be closed briefly through the work zone during the fence construction from time to time, Kozinski said.”It’s not going to be like a typical highway construction project where we have to take a lane to do it,” said Kozinski, noting that the fence would be about 40 feet away from the highway in many places.
Kennedy wonders whether the fence would hinder animals’ ability to migrate, he said.The fence may restrict some migration of animals, but fewer animals will be killed on the interstate, said Bill Andree, district wildlife manager for the Colorado Division of Wildlife. “It helps animals, but it’s built more for the motoring public,” Andree said.Based on recommendations from biologists, the fence won’t be installed in some of the most important places animals migrate and also in areas where the hills are too steep for animals to come down, Kozinski said. Crews began work on the fence Sept. 19. If crews cannot finish it by December 2007, they will resume in spring. In a “worst-case scenario,” they would work until fall 2008, Kozinski said.
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Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars said she wants to bring a voice of environmental sustainability to the commission, and believes her opponent has served long enough.