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Excavation Endeavor Creates I-70's First Wildlife Crossing in Colorado

Wed July 10, 2024 - West Edition #14
CDOT


Crews constructed two new I-70 bridges and then excavated under the bridges to create the wildlife underpass.
Photo courtesy of CDOT
Crews constructed two new I-70 bridges and then excavated under the bridges to create the wildlife underpass.
Crews constructed two new I-70 bridges and then excavated under the bridges to create the wildlife underpass.   (Photo courtesy of CDOT) Lawrence Construction, based out of Littleton, Colo., recently completed the Genesee Wildlife Crossing, the first of its kind on Interstate 70.   (Photo courtesy of Lawrence Construction) Crews also placed 2 mi. of wildlife fencing along both the east and westbound lanes between those exits.   (Photo courtesy of Lawrence Construction) A unique aspect of the project is that the bridge isn’t raised. Crews constructed the bridge to be level with the rest of the road and then dug out the underpass from underneath.   (Photo courtesy of CDOT) The Colorado Department of Transportation and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife celebrated the completion of the project with a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 20.   (Photo courtesy of CDOT) According to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT), this area has the highest number of wildlife-vehicle collisions on the I-70 Mountain Corridor east of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel.   (Photo courtesy of Lawrence Construction)

Lawrence Construction has successfully completed the first wildlife crossing on I-70 in Colorado.

Utilizing twin bridge structures, the Littleton, Colo.-based contractor created an underpass for animals — the Genesee Wildlife Crossing — between the exits of Lookout Mountain and Genesee. Crews also placed 2 mi. of wildlife fencing along both the east and westbound lanes between those exits to help ensure the safety of the project.

Crews mobilized on site in September 2022 and completed the $10.3 million project in June 2024.

Photo courtesy of CDOT

Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) officials and the Colorado Parks and Wildlife (CPW) agency held a ribbon-cutting ceremony on June 20 to celebrate the milestone.

"The new underpass at I-70 Genesee is the first major wildlife crossing to be constructed along the I-70 Mountain Corridor and it will allow wildlife to safely cross underneath the interstate at a location, which has historically been a hotspot for wildlife related crashes," said CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew. "Reducing animal-vehicle conflicts and improving wildlife connectivity is a major element to the overall improvement of travel time reliability, safety, and mobility in the I-70 Floyd Hill project area."

These crossing structures have proven to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by as much as 90 percent, ensuring safe passage for wildlife and saving millions of dollars in medical and property damages for our motorists.

A unique aspect of the project is that the bridge wasn't raised. Crews constructed the bridge to be level with the rest of the road and then dug out the underpass from underneath, according to Maddy Cieciorka, a project manager and engineer of the transportation agency.

"This project really was a blend of ecology and engineering," Francesca Tordonato, CDOT's regional environmental program manager, said in an interview. "We had to find suitable land where we could safely direct wildlife across I-70 and we wanted to do it in a safe and efficient way. Our environmental, engineering, and construction teams really worked together to make this happen."

This project is the first of several Floyd Hill projects to be completed.

According to CDOT, this area has the highest number of wildlife-vehicle collisions on the I-70 Mountain Corridor east of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel.

"In our ongoing work to improve Colorado's statewide infrastructure and further invest in our Colorado way of life, I am delighted to see wildlife crossings are a priority," said Colorado First Gentleman Marlon Reis.

Photo courtesy of Lawrence Construction

"Wildlife need to move daily and between seasonal ranges to maintain resiliency in response to habitat conditions and changing pressures on the landscape," said Jeff Davis, Colorado Parks and Wildlife director. "With increasing human populations and traffic volumes in Colorado, we need to continue to develop effective solutions for wildlife to access valuable resources to maintain healthy populations. CDOT and CPW have together created statewide approaches to wildlife-highway mitigation and identified where to focus transportation dollars across Colorado to improve safe passage for motorists and wildlife. I'm thrilled to see another component of a statewide plan come to fruition today."

"Colorado has one of the nation's leading programs to protect traveler safety by avoiding dangerous collisions between drivers and wildlife," said Lew. "To date, we have built more than 100 structures that allow terrestrial wildlife and aquatic movement in the form of pipe culverts, overpasses, concrete box culverts, underpasses and bridges with nearly 450 miles of fencing accompanying them. This program benefits from tremendous collaboration between CDOT and our partners at the Department of Natural Resources, thanks to an executive order from [Colorado] Governor Polis."

In Colorado, more than 5,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) are reported to law enforcement each year, costing $80 million annually in associated accident response and cleanup, medical expenses, and the value of wildlife loss in the collisions. Up to two-thirds of WVCs go unreported. I-70 at Genesee experiences the highest number of WVCs on I-70 east of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel and the new underpass and fencing are anticipated to decrease WVCs by a significant amount.




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