$350 Million Investment in US Wildlife Crossings

A $350 million investment in us wildlife crossings for road safety was announced.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

A $350 million investment in us wildlife crossings for road safety was announced. Image Sillerkiil, CC BY-SA 4.0 , via Wikimedia Commons.

Reading Time: 3 minutes

A $350 million investment in us wildlife crossings for road safety was announced.

The US Department of Transportation (DOT) has announced a major $350 million investment to construct US wildlife crossings and fund related conservation efforts across the country. The money will support state, local, and tribal governments in developing projects that help prevent dangerous and costly collisions between vehicles and animals. The investment comes as part of the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act passed in 2021 and represents a commitment to protecting motorists and wildlife through smart infrastructure updates.

Details of the DOT US Wildlife Crossings Funding

The $350 million investment will be disbursed through a competitive grant process to state transportation departments, metropolitan planning organizations, local governments, and tribal authorities. Projects eligible for funding range from constructing new wildlife overpasses and underpasses to installing exclusion fencing, restoring habitat, and conducting research to identify optimal sites.

The DOT estimates the investment will enable over 1,000 US Wildlife Crossing projects to be delivered across the country. Applications will be evaluated based on project readiness and capability, lifecycle cost, community support, and potential benefits for habitat connectivity and collision reduction. Grant recipients will need to provide a 20% funding match.

America’s Costly Wildlife Collision Problem

Collisions between vehicles and large animals have soared in recent decades as traffic levels increased and the development fragmented animal habitats. Larger mammals are often involved in reported crashes, including deer, moose, elk, and bears, but researchers suggest the actual number may be up to 50% higher when factoring in unreported incidents and accidents involving smaller species.

The carnage also poses major risks for motorists. Over 200 people are killed annually in collisions with wildlife, with many thousands more injured. The expenses are staggering too. According to estimates from the Federal Highway Administration, wildlife collisions result in $8.4 billion in vehicle damages per year across the country. This is a problem costing lives, hurting ecosystems, and wasting billions of taxpayer dollars. The DOT funding will support a variety of initiatives to build safer roadways that accommodate the movement patterns of local wildlife.

How the US Wildlife Crossings Can Help

US wildlife crossings are structures that allow animals to traverse roadways safely. They come in two main forms – overpasses and underpasses. Specially designed overpasses constructed over the roadway let animals cross high above traffic. Underpasses or culverts allow passage below the roadbed.

These dedicated structures are often combined with fencing or other barriers to funnel animals toward safe crossing opportunities and keep them off the road. Thoughtful design and siting based on species migration patterns and habitat connectivity ensure that investments are maximally effective.

Studies by transportation agencies show that properly sited and designed US wildlife crossings combined with exclusion fencing can reduce collisions by 80-90% or more. They also reconnect habitats fragmented by roads to maintain healthy, genetically diverse wildlife populations.

Additional Benefits of Crossings

While the safety benefits for drivers are clear, crossings also provide a range of other advantages:

  • Prevent costly vehicle repairs and traffic delays from crashes.
  • Reduce emergency response needs, saving taxpayer dollars.
  • Lessen direct killing of wildlife and suffering of injured animals.
  • Link isolated habitats to support ecosystem health.
  • Provide connections for pollinators and support other ecosystem services.
  • May benefit certain endangered species.
  • Though requiring significant initial construction costs, studies show crossings pay for themselves through collision savings alone within 10-15 years. They are a highly cost-effective investment compared to the economic and environmental damages from uncontrolled wildlife crashes over the long term.

See also: Canopy Bridges – Wildlife Bridges in the Trees.

Reception and Challenges Ahead

State transportation departments have widely welcomed the DOT funding announcement and are preparing grant applications. However, the competitive process will likely leave many good projects unfunded this round. Successfully delivering crossings also involves conducting environmental reviews, impact analysis, and research on optimal placement. Opposition can occasionally arise around the spending and construction burdens.

However, investments in US wildlife crossings enjoy bipartisan support in many regions due to the obvious safety benefits. Proper public outreach can overcome concerns by showcasing the compelling tax dollar savings and safety record of crossings.

An Important Step for Wildlife and Motorist Safety

The unprecedented $350 million DOT allocation demonstrates a shift towards viewing road systems for people and for coexistence with native wildlife. While decades of habitat fragmentation already make it difficult to restore ecosystems severed by road networks, targeted mitigation measures like US wildlife crossings can enable safer mobility for animals and humans.

Ultimately the investment will improve road safety, benefit ecosystems, and potentially save thousands of lives if implemented thoughtfully across the country. It acknowledges that America’s expansive transportation infrastructure impacts more than just human travelers. The initiative provides overdue support for restoring safe passage to our wild neighbors.

Newsletter Signup

Sign up for exclusive content, original stories, activism awareness, events and more.

One comment

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Support Us.

Happy Eco News will always remain free for anyone who needs it. Help us spread the good news about the environment!