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Transportation Bill Recognizes that Traffic is Sometimes a Zoo

PHOTO: pronghorn. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
PHOTO: pronghorn. Photo credit: Deborah Smith
July 2, 2012

PROVO, Utah - Commuting in Utah sometimes feels like a zoo, with the state's abundant wildlife traveling along - and over - roads. The new federal transportation bill approved over the weekend recognizes the dangers for people and critters, and grants state and federal agencies funding to retrofit highways to prevent collisions.

Rob Ament, road ecology program director with the Western Transportation Institute, points out several solutions to pursue.

"Wildlife underpasses, animal depiction systems that warn drivers that animals might be on the road - it's worth investing more to protect motorists from large wildlife."

The Federal Highway Administration recently filed a wildlife-vehicle collision report with Congress, documenting a 50 percent increase in collisions over the last 15 years. The report estimates there are up to 2 million collisions each year - which rarely end well for wildlife, and sometimes result in human fatalities.

Ament says all those crashes are expensive, too, totaling more than $6 billion a year nationwide. He praises the new transportation bill for addressing the problem.

"It's taking into consideration the safety of motorists with wildlife-vehicle collisions, and the need for roads not to disrupt wildlife movement."

He says the bill also allows for structures such as pipes or tubes under roadways, to protect small animals and reptiles.

Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - UT