Why did the wildlife cross the road? To get to the other side safely, of course. And thanks the solution of building interstate overpasses so wildlife may avoid collisions with cars, such is now possible.
On Tuesday, Washington State Department of Transportation crews began constructing the state’s first animal overpass, a 150-foot wide-bridge surrounded by native trees and planted with vegetation designed to let bears, elk, otters and even mice pass over the ever-busy I-90 expressway.
Costing $6 million, the critter crossing will be the first of more than 20 planned overpasses and underpasses spanning the landscape along Washington’s central Cascade Mountains. The intention of the overpass is to let wandering animals get across a 15-mile stretch while 28,000 vehicles speed by every day.
Said Patricia Garvey-Darda, a biologist for the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, “This is really a remarkable effort. The goal is to connect all the species and all the habitat.”
As the Seattle Times reports, four underpasses are already open and game cameras have caught video of animals from river otters to deer crossing under the highway.
And Washington isn’t the only state looking out for wildlife; Florida, Montana, and other states have already constructed similar animal crossings. In addition, America’s northern neighbor built 44 of them along the Trans-Canada Highway, soon after recording a 80% drop in collisions with animals by the time the project was finished.
Because 725,000 animal-vehicle collisions are reported every year just in the United States, the National Forest Service has been pushing for something like this for years – as have state conservationists.
Forest Rangers say the project will reunite wildlife populations divided by the highway, allowing animals to more easily find food, homes and even mates, which would broaden the gene pool for rare species.
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