Highway safety project for motorists and wildlife planned for SW Colorado.

Construction of a new wildlife highway overpass and underpass are part of an $11.3 million project to be built in southwestern Colorado in 2021.

The wildlife mitigation project, scheduled to begin in the spring, will construct several features on U.S. Highway 160 between Durango and Pagosa Springs, according to a Colorado Department of Transportation news release.

CDOT is partnering with Colorado Parks and Wildlife, the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and several other organizations on the project to reduce collisions between motor vehicles and wildlife along the section of highway, promoting safer travel for motorists and safe passage for animals.

“This is a heavily used corridor by vehicles and an important area in the San Juan Basin for big game,” said Scott Wait, of CPW, in the release. “Deer and elk spend the warm months in the high country to the north; but most big game move to the important winter range areas south of the highway during the winter. So there is a huge number of deer and elk that cross the highway at that location.”

Financial obligations of project partners include:

  • $8.6 million from CDOT
  • $1.3 million from the Southern Ute Indian Tribe
  • $750,000 from CPW
  • $317,000 from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
  • $100,000 from Mule Deer Foundation (via a private donor)
  • $75,000 from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation.

“Hunting is an extremely important component to the Southern Ute Indian Tribe and culture and it is considered vital to keep these traditions alive,” said Steve Whiteman, acting director of natural resources. “The Tribe has long maintained a positive working relationship with the state of Colorado, and looks forward to the collaboration with CPW and CDOT to bring this important project into reality.”

The project site is in Archuleta County, near Lake Capote and Chimney Rock National Monument. The project corridor, including fencing, deer guards and earthen berms and ramps, will span about two miles, about 13 miles west of Pagosa Springs and 37 miles east of Durango.

Ralph L. Wadsworth Construction Co., Utah, was award the construction project for $7.95 million, the release said. The work should be done by the fall of 2021.

More than 60 wildlife mitigation structures, crossing above or under highways, have been built throughout Colorado along with about 400 miles of big game fencing, CDOT said.

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