“ARC is about building bridges; it’s about reconciling conflict between roads and wildlife, people and animals, and getting us all where we need to go safely, at a lower cost. ARC is also about building bridges between science and design, and in the process, reconnecting our landscapes.” – Nina-Marie Lister Ecologist and Planner, Ryerson University
Each fall and winter, with our deer population rutting, drivers on our local roads face increased odds of colliding with wildlife, especially in early morning or dusk. And it is not just folks on the Eastern Shore that are experiencing this; collisions between wildlife and vehicles have gone up 50% in the past 15 years, with a price tag of $8 billion per year.
The modern reality is that we need to drive, and need to reach our destination as quickly and safely as possible. Animals need the same thing, having to cross roadways while searching for mates, food or even just normal migration. As our roadway system has been built out, it has the unintended consequence of interrupting and fragmenting natural habits, as well as the travel routes of wild animals. Most animals killed on the highway are hit conducting normal, routine parts of their lives. Road mortality is documented as one of the major threats to the survival of 21 federally listed threatened or endangered species in North America.
A U.S. Federal Highway Administration study reports that there are approximately one million to two million collisions between cars and large mammals every year in the U.S. This represents a significant danger to human safety and wildlife populations. Wildlife-vehicle collisions are also increasing as a proportion of the total accidents on the continent’s roads.
“People need to move around and they use highways to do that. When people learn that wildlife have the same needs that they do, and that the animals are often moving across those very same highways, they understand there’s a problem to solve.” —Harvey Locke, conservationist and ARC partner
While our rural backroads may never be able to completely avoid collisions with wildlife, on route 13, this problem can be minimized by using crossing structures. These are proven solutions that when designed and implemented strategically can radically reduce the number of collisions to save costs and, most significantly, human and animal lives. Providing crossing infrastructure at key points along transportation corridors is known to improve safety, reconnect habitats and restore wildlife movement. Throughout Europe, Asia, Australia and North America, wildlife crossing structures have been implemented with demonstrable success.
Crossing structures include underpasses and overpasses, both of which have been constructed in a variety of sizes and designs. Although wildlife underpasses are less costly to build and more commonly used by a diversity of species, wildlife overpasses are preferred by certain wide-roaming and iconic species-at-risk, such as deers and foxes. Overpass structures are also more visible and noteworthy to motorists.
Wildlife crossing structures present a timely opportunity to communicate both the problems and the solution to the general public. By making these structures visible, people can experience first-hand—and identify with—engineered landscape designs that create safer roads. At the same time, wildlife crossing solutions have the dual benefit of improving motorist safety and protecting wildlife populations. Eventually, with many crossing structures in place, we can begin to reconnect our landscapes and ultimately restore the important functions of North America’s wild ecosystems.
Center for Humans and Nature
At the Center for Humans and Nature, engineers and ecologists are working together to help wildlife–from bears to rodents cross a highway that runs through one of North America’s largest wildlife corridors. How do you design a roadway for people and wildlife? What solutions are available, and how might different approaches reflect our perceptions of the landscape?
“ARC is about building bridges; it’s about reconciling conflict between roads and wildlife, people and animals, and getting us all where we need to go safely, at a lower cost. ARC is also about building bridges between science and design, and in the process, reconnecting our landscapes.” – Nina-Marie Lister
Editor’s Note: The source of this report is the organization ARC (Animal Road Crossing)ARC is an interdisciplinary partnership working to facilitate new thinking, new methods, new materials and new solutions for wildlife crossing structures. “Our primary goal is to ensure safe passage for both humans and animals on and across our roads. We do this through supporting the study, design and construction of wildlife crossing structures throughout North America.”