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Road collisions involving wildlife are rising in Colorado. Most of these incidents happen in the state’s rural areas, where animals wander onto highways and get struck by moving vehicles. The state is using innovation to tackle what has become a major problem for both drivers and creatures. Learn how wildlife tunnels aim to reduce accidents and protect nature’s way of life.

A new project for U.S. 285

Construction is underway for a potential solution to this issue. Crews are working to finish an underpass located by the intersection of U.S. Highway 285 and U.S. 24 near Nathrop. The $3.5 million project will create a culvert that falls in the migration path of local elk.

The sizable underpass — 12 feet tall, 85 feet long and 32 feet wide — will be large enough for herds to pass through comfortably. The project also includes the installation of eight-foot tall deer fencing, which channels the animals into the tunnel. The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) reports that the combination of wildlife crossings and fencing can reduce collisions by more than 75 percent.

Numbers point to a disturbing trend

About 70 deer have been killed in the last two years near the intersection under construction, according to CDOT. In that area of U.S. 285, collisions with wildlife account for roughly 70 percent of driving accidents.

Officials expect that there will be a learning curve for the animals after construction is finished, which is expected to be complete by Labor Day. These tunnels are a smart solution to an issue that causes injuries to both humans and animals. It should be interesting to see if these culverts will lower the number of accidents in Colorado.

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