Wildlife Crossing Funds Provided to NC via Federal “America the Beautiful”
North Carolina wildlife will soon be able to traverse I-40 by walking through special wildlife crossings built beneath the structure. Wildlife crossings have been implemented in Europe and other US states, and serve to minimize vehicle-animal collisions.
According to the North Carolina Department of Transportation, a contractor for the NCDOT is preparing for significant construction on a project to replace the bridge on Interstate 40 over Harmon Den Road at Exit 7 in Haywood County, North Carolina. The plans include two paths — one on each side of Cold Springs Creek — to help wildlife migrate from one side of the interstate to the other without encountering vehicles. A 9-foot tall fence will guide animals to the trails away from traffic and under the bridge.
In addition, NCDOT is evaluating the use of wildlife guards — similar to slotted cattle guards — to prevent deer and elk from walking up the ramps. These measures will hopefully encourage wildlife to cross under the bridge and reduce the possibility of animal accidents.
Said NCDOT Division 14 Engineer Wanda Austin: “We are excited to be adding protections for wildlife in this and other upcoming NCDOT projects. We have worked with a wide variety of interest groups, transportation, and wildlife experts to incorporate these unique features to benefit the people who drive the gorge, and the animals that live in the gorge.”
The traffic management plan for this project includes a six-month detour with drivers utilizing the exit and onramps.
In recent weeks, construction crews from contractor Kiewit Infrastructure South have been mobilizing equipment and preparing to begin significant construction activities. This week, crews are upgrading the exit and entrance ramps.
Starting as soon as November 9, 2021, all traffic will be funneled into a one-lane pattern prior to the bridge and use the ramps as a detour around the bridge. Traffic will remain in this pattern into May while crews remove and replace the deteriorating structure.
In addition to the unique wildlife features, this five-bridge project is also the first of its kind in the state to be administered in a new method with the intent of forming a partnership between the NCDOT, the contractor and the design team. Kiewit Infrastructure earned the $19 million contract for the first of the five, which has a final completion date set in May 2024.
- America the Beautiful Initiative on the US Department of Interior Website
- Multiagency 2021 report, Conserving and Restoring America the Beautiful (PDF)
- Complete November 3, 2021 press release by the NC DOT (foundation of above article)
- “How wildlife corridors can help save species” by the Environment America Research & Policy Center (nonprofit) with accompanying photographs of existing wildlife crossings
- October 2021 article on conservation projects by the Biltmore Beacon
- Article on August 2021 passing of Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and included funding for Wildlife Crossings and more
- A 2021 post by the Theodore Roosevelt Conservative Partnership
- A 2020 blog post by the North Carolina Wildlife Federation
- A 2017 article on wildlife crossings in The Grey Area News
Source: North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT)