From the August 01, 2015 edition of The Pueblo Chieftain
By Anthony Settipani
Wildlife fencing along Interstate 25 south of Fountain has decreased the number of wildlife-related collisions by 85 percent, the Colorado Department of Transportation said on Friday.
The fencing was erect- ed in May 2012 at a cost of $1 million, and records taken from within the fence’s 6.2-mile length reveal that the number of animal-related collisions dropped to four from 26 over a time period beginning in September 2009 and continuing until December. This allows for comparison of one 31-month period before the installation with another fence, resulting in the decrease. Information was taken from the DOT’s accident database, which compiles information from all Colorado law enforcement agencies.
“We have concluded that these fences are very effective,” said Sasan Delshad, the DOT traffic pro- gram engineer responsible for this area of the state. “That’s the good news.” The bad news is that the state does not have the funding to extend the fencing along the entire length of I-25, and that the number of collisions on either side of the fence have actually increased as animals apparently make their way around the fencing and onto the road.
According to the data, in the 1 mile of roadway south of the fence, wildlife collisions increased to seven from two, while the mile north of the fence saw the number rise to six from five over the same timeframe.
Still, over the 8.2 miles together, the number of collisions decreased by approximately 48 percent, to 17 from 33.
“It was a huge return on our investment,” Delshad said.
Delshad said that though he would like to see as much fencing along I-25 as possible, the only other location in which the state is currently planning a new installation is a stretch of roadway along U.S. 24 West, near the Waldo Canyon fire area. That region is scheduled to receive wildlife fencing in July 2017.
“Basically speaking, we have a fixed source of dollars to use throughout the year,” Delshad explained. “And we have projects ready for the next four fiscal years.”
In order for a new fencing project to receive funding, an area must demonstrate a risk pat- tern including multiple vehicle-wildlife collisions. The department relies
on a computer system to analyze the data from a given area and determine if there is a pattern of wildlife collisions in that region.
Most recently, the department investigated a stretch of I-25 south of Pueblo where a fatality occurred.
“At this point, based on the analysis that our engineers have done, it doesn’t look like there’s a pattern there,” Delshad said. “It all has to be data-driven. Just because somebody died, that doesn’t necessarily constitute a pattern. Who knows what really happened?”
According to Bob Wilson, a spokesperson for the Colorado Department of Transportation, although all routine safety funding has been allotted for the next four years, allowances can be made under special circumstances, such as in the event that a dangerous area is discovered.
“Generally, if there’s just one accident in an area per year, it doesn’t warrant any extra measures to be taken,” Wilson explained. But if we start seeing a pattern, multiple collisions in a particular section of roadway, then we can start taking action.”