Wildlife fence extended on Highway 82
The Colorado Department of Transportation is expanding its efforts this spring to reduce the number of accidents between vehicles and deer, elk and other wildlife along lower Highway 82.
CDOT is erecting 8-foot tall wildlife fencing between Catherine Store and El Jebel, installing eight deer guards at highway access points, adding 15 gates for pedestrian access and building 17 earthen escape ramps for deer and elk that somehow skirt the fencing and find themselves in the roadway.
When this latest project is completed by October, the wildlife fencing will be completed from milepost 7 southeast of Glenwood Springs to milepost 19, just northwest of El Jebel.
The wildlife fencing is the most cost-effective tool CDOT has found to reduce accidents between cars and wildlife, said agency spokeswoman Nancy Shanks. Still, not all collisions will be eliminated.
“Obviously we can’t fence everywhere,” Shanks said.
Studies by the Federal Highway Administration indicate the fencing is an effective tool, according to Shanks. Video and still cameras indicated wildlife used the escape ramps when they were first installed in 2006 along U.S. Highway 550 near Ridgway State Park, according to CDOT. The federal government makes funds available for such projects through the Hazard Elimination System and Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery programs, Shanks said.
In the latest leg of the project, about 37,500 linear feet of heavy-gauge wire fencing is being built in the ditches along both sides of Highway 82.
The escape ramps are the most eye-catching features of the fencing. The 6-foot high wood frames look like fortifications built as part of trench warfare. Earth is piled up against them to form a ramp from the highway side. The opposite side is a wood wall that is high enough to prevent deer and elk from jumping up and into the highway corridor. However, wildlife stuck in the corridor are able to climb the ramp and jump to safety on the opposite side. Colorado Parks and Wildlife helped CDOT and its contractor select the locations for the escape ramps, Shanks said.
The latest installation of wildlife fencing is part of a broader project that costs $7.1 million. Other components of the project are repaving between milepost 12.79 and 17.78, new guard rails and merge lanes at the intersection of Highway 82 and JW Drive, an entrance to Blue Lake subdivision.
The first phase of wildlife fencing for Highway 82 was undertaken in 2009. The stretch between mileposts 7 and 11 was identified as one of the most dangerous for wildlife-vehicle collisions, with 39 in 2005. CDOT spent $423,810 on the first phase of the fencing project.
The second phase extended fencing from milepost 11 to 16 at a cost of $1.24 million. Now it is extended to milepost 19. It wasn’t immediately known if additional wildlife fencing would be built between El Jebel and Aspen. Stretches of the fencing are installed in the Emma area, along Aspen-Pitkin County Airport and Snowmass Canyon.
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