PHOENIX — The Arizona Department of Transportation, which has been nationally recognized for its creative and innovative solutions to promote safe travel while protecting wildlife and connecting ecosystems, received another accolade for its leadership in developing wildlife crossing structures in Arizona.
The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration recently awarded ADOT and its partner Animal Road Crossing Solutions this year’s Environmental Excellence Award for Excellence in Environmental Leadership.
Arizona has long been considered a leader in wildlife connectivity issues. ADOT and multiple partner agencies, including the Arizona Game and Fish Department, collaborated to construct wildlife underpasses and elk crossings along State Route 260 east of Payson and desert bighorn sheep overpasses near historic Hoover Dam on US 93.
“ADOT has a long record of innovative and successful wildlife accommodations as part of construction projects,” said ADOT Director John Halikowski. “While ADOT is not a wildlife-management agency, we are a transportation safety agency and we partner with other agencies, such as the Arizona Game and Fish Department, in an effort to preserve and protect wildlife, while reducing vehicle-wildlife collisions.”
According to data collected by the Arizona Game and Fish Department, more than 15,000 crossings by 16 species of animals were recorded at six underpasses along SR 260 in Arizona over a seven-year period. In addition, more than 4,300 desert bighorn sheep crossed three overpasses on US 93 in Arizona in a two-year span.
In addition to preserving wildlife, these specialized crossings protect drivers from crashes with some of the state’s big game.
A fencing project linking three existing crossing structures on SR 260 reduced elk-vehicle collisions by 98 percent over a six-year span.
Wildlife crossing structures and fencing can greatly lessen the impact of traffic because, together, they provide safe linkages across highways, helping ensure stable local and regional wildlife populations.
Selected by an independent panel, the Environmental Excellence Award is the Federal Highway Administration’s biennial recognition of innovative efforts to preserve the environment while enhancing America’s highways.
“Building a 21st-century transportation system that is cost-efficient and protects the environment requires creativity and innovation,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx. “These awards demonstrate FHWA’s support of projects that approach current and future transportation challenges with new solutions.”
Additional information about the 2015 Environmental Excellence Award recipients can be found at https://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/environmental_excellence_awards/.