Can you design a bridge for wildlife on Vail Pass?
December 16, 2009
VAIL, Colorado – Animals crossing the road are inevitable along Interstate 70 on Vail Pass and elsewhere and that inevitably leads to road kill, but a group of conservationists is trying to build momentum behind the idea of a wildlife crossing bridge at west Vail Pass that could make crossing safer for both people and animals.
The goal is to build a crossing that could connect habitats and provide a necessary link across the interstate, say proponents from the group Colorado Safe Passage Coalition.
The Coalition is hosting a design competition for a site at the western side of Vail Pass for a wildlife overpass.
“The competition is meant to bring the best and brightest minds together to design an innovative crossing structure at west Vail Pass,” said Monique DiGiorgio, of the Western Environmental Law Center.
While the competition won’t officially launch until the spring, DiGiorgio said the announcement should get people thinking about potential designs that can filter wildlife toward the bride and across it.
Kim Vacariu, of the Wildlands Network, said the fact that the Vail Pass has been chosen is the result of a lot of work by a lot of different groups. Vail Pass was chosen among a field of more than 20 potential sites.
The area is one of the five most endangered wildlife linkages along the spine of the entire continent, Vacariu said.
While overpasses aren’t the most common answer in terms of wildlife crossings because they’re typically expensive, they’re becoming more recognized, Vacariu said. The proposed west Vail Pass bridge could be the largest of its kind behind one in Canada, he said.
Part of the reason for the competition is to solicit ideas for more inexpensive designs and materials, said Rob Ament, the competition’s project manager. Ament is excited because the competition could also apply toward projects across North America, not just the Vail Pass overpass.
“We’re hoping to recruit people internationally who are enamored with the whole notion of a bridge for wildlife,” Ament said. “We’re hoping they really do come up with some creative, new ideas.”
Ament expects over 100 submittals for the competition, which will also include a jury of “top-notch people,” he said. The winner will receive a cash prize, and although the Colorado Department of Transportation wouldn’t be bound to use the design, it could choose to work with the winning design team, he said.
Funding for the project and a time frame for when something could actually get built is still in question, DiGiorgio said.
“Hopefully the competition will raise the profile of this issue and of the corridor,” she said.
Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org