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Bridging Roads and Habitats: The Vital Role of Wildlife Crossings in Growing Roadway Systems

wildlife crossing overpass and underpass
Wildlife crossings can increase habitat connectivity and improve safety by reducing conflicts between motorists and wildlife.

As transportation infrastructure in the United States continues to expand, the relationship between motorist and wildlife safety is increasingly evident. Linear transportation corridors divide natural habitats, creating a patchwork of land that may be separated by roadways, railroads, and other infrastructure. Sources of food, water, and shelter are essential to wildlife survival. However, critical resources, breeding sites, and migration corridors are rarely all contained within a single area. To meet their biological needs, wildlife must cross transportation corridors to access resources, and these attempted crossings often result in wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs).

The FHWA Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program estimates that more than 1 million WVCs occur every year in the United States. These collisions cost upwards of $8 billion, result in tens of thousands of injuries to motorists, and cause hundreds of motorist fatalities — not to mention the impact of WVCs on wildlife populations. While there is no single solution to this issue, one approach is to incorporate wildlife crossings and exclusion fencing in roadway designs. Wildlife crossings include underpasses and overpasses, and many studies such as the Western Transportation Institute's Animal Vehicle Collision Reduction and Habitat Connectivity Report have shown that well-placed and well-designed crossings combined with exclusionary fencing can reduce WVCs by as much as 90%. These structures improve safety, increase habitat connectivity, and are a step forward in resolving conflicts between human transportation needs and wildlife conservation. Horrocks Environmental Specialist, Marley Madsen, explains:

"Humans need to be able to get from Point A to Point B, and so do wildlife. Wildlife crossing projects are the perfect union of engineering and ecological responsibility. I’m proud to be part of a company that creates amazing infrastructure, and tries to do so in a sustainable way."

Designing Wildlife-Friendly Transportation Infrastructure

At Horrocks, we understand the need to find solutions and prevent WVCs. Our experience addressing this issue is demonstrated through active involvement in several impactful wildlife crossing projects: the US-550 Wildlife Vehicle Collision Scoping Report in Cuba, New Mexico; the US-89 Wildlife Crossings in Kane County, Utah; and the USA Parkway Design-Build project in Reno, Nevada.

US-550 Wildlife Vehicle Collision Scoping Report | Cuba, New Mexico

wildlife crossing overpass

Horrocks worked with the New Mexico Department of Transportation and New Mexico Department of Fish and Game to expand upon the New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (WCAP). Horrocks’ team of engineers, geospatial analysts, and environmental specialists completed a scoping report recommending wildlife mitigation along US-550, the top priority hotspot identified in the WCAP. The report evaluated engineering requirements to implement wildlife-vehicle mitigation based on existing conditions. The report also reduced the 18 structures originally proposed in the WCAP to eight structures. These structures included location and design recommendations based on wildlife-crossing efficacy, cost-effectiveness, constructability, and compatibility with the existing roadway infrastructure.

US-89 Wildlife Crossings Project | Kane County, Utah

The US-89 Wildlife Crossings project aimed to enhance wildlife safety on highways while protecting motorists. Horrocks collaborated with the Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) to replace existing pipe culverts with larger steel pipe arches by conducting a structure-type selection report and providing contract documents and special provisions for the project. These underpasses exceeded the Utah Division of Wildlife's "openness factor," and substantially increased safe wildlife passage under the roadway. Despite challenges like construction phasing and limited vertical space, efficient coordination with designers from UDOT allowed Horrocks to find a suitable structure and phasing strategy to meet project goals.

USA Parkway Design-Build Project | Reno, Nevada

The USA Parkway project provided a new, 19-mile transportation link between I-80 and US-50 in the Reno/Sparks area of Nevada. Due to the location and the extent of new roadway being introduced in the undeveloped high-desert area, the project required several design modifications to accommodate movement of local wildlife — specifically the large population of wild horses. As the lead designer in the project, Horrocks helped to improve motorist safety and allow safe passage for wildlife with two cast-in-place concrete wildlife structures and installation of approximately 31 miles of wildlife fencing.

Horrocks’ Services

Our comprehensive roadway services combine innovative design with thoughtful environmental considerations, strategic planning, and public engagement. We aim to ensure that our solutions address the specific needs of the region by considering local ecosystems, target species, migration patterns, and wildlife habitat.

Through public engagement we involve the community in a transparent and collaborative decision-making process. By educating and involving the public, we create a sense of shared responsibility and raise awareness about the importance of wildlife-friendly transportation infrastructure.

Building a Balanced Future

Our mission at Horrocks is to serve our communities — which includes finding the balance between advancing infrastructure and preserving the wild places we cherish. By embracing innovation in wildlife crossings and considering the insights from ongoing WVC studies, we can work toward a future where transportation infrastructure integrates with the natural environment.

For more information on how we can contribute to your project's success, please reach out to us via Let's build transportation systems that connect people while prioritizing the safety of travelers and the conservation of our wildlife populations.


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