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State Route 260 “Elk Crosswalk” -2010

 

For a copy of the final report for this project please select the following link:

Preacher Canyon Wildlife Fence and Crosswalk Enhancement Project Evaluation

Just as pedestrians need to cross roadways safely to go to work or buy groceries, wildlife also need to be able to cross roads to obtain resources (food and water), for migration between seasonal ranges and to find mates.

ElkOne way to get pedestrians across roads is through the use of crosswalks. Along State Route 260 in Arizona a “crosswalk” has been implemented to safely convey elk and other wildlife across the highway.  The primary difference between the wildlife “crosswalk” and a normal pedestrian crossing is rather than pushing a button to stop traffic, this system detects wildlife through innovative technology and activates signs alerting motorists of their presence.

 

Background:

Collisions with large wildlife, such as elk, can lead to severe injury or death to both motorists and wildlife.  Furthermore, as roads are expanded and traffic volumes increase, the ability of wildlife to safely cross the road to obtain resources is significantly reduced.  In 2000 Arizona Department of Transportation (ADOT) began the upgrade of State Route 260 from a 2-lane to a 4-lane divided highway, incorporating wildlife crossing structures for safe passage of wildlife.  To date three of five total sections of highway have been upgraded and Arizona Game & Fish Department (AZGFD) has documented more than 15,000 animals successfully crossing through these structures. Research continues on State Route 260, for results from 2002-2006 see the following link, the final report will be available in 2010 and added to the website:

http://www.dot.state.az.us/TPD/ATRC/publications/project_reports/PDF/AZ540.pdf

The Preacher Canyon section, the first section of highway to be completed, included two wildlife underpasses and one large bridge and <1/4 mile of total fencing designed to funnel animals to these structures. Following reconstruction collisions with wildlife still occurred.  Using wildlife-vehicle collision data and Global Positioning System data obtained from elk collared during previous research, AZGFD and ADOT determined the extent of fencing required to intercept elk movement across the highway and encompass elk-vehicle collision “hotspots” along this stretch of highway.  This fencing is intended to funnel animals to the existing bridges allowing for safe movement across the highway.

In the event that animals opted to cross the highway at the end of the funnel fencing “crosswalk was installed to help safely convey wildlife across the highway.

How the “Crosswalk” Works:
ElectroBraid Fence, Inc. uses a roadway military-grade target acquisition software that detects wildlife approaching the highway.  Once detected, a series of flashing signs alert motorists of the presence of wildlife.

SR260_12SR260_13SR260_14SR260_15

Layout of the “Elk Crosswalk”

layout

Approach:
AGFD is using three primary methods to evaluate the overall success of the project;

  • Monitoring wildlife-vehicle collisions – AGFD works with ADOT and the Department of Public Safety to document wildlife-vehicle collisions along all highways, including the study area, to determine changes in the incidence of wildlife-vehicle collisions before and after fencing.
  • Video-surveillance monitoring – AGFD uses video surveillance to monitor the reliability of the RADS in detecting wildlife as well as documenting wildlife use and behavior of the at-grade crossing.
  • GPS movements – To determine changes in the ability of elk to cross and crossing locations before- and after-fencing, AGFD collared 28 with GPS collars that obtain locations every 2 hours.

SR260_18Sr260_17

Does The “Crosswalk” and Fencing Work?
The crosswalk and fencing has provided promising results through during the first three years of operation:

1) Elk-vehicle collisions have been reduced by 96% and single vehicle collisions involving wildlife have dropped by 65% in 2007-2009.

graph1

2) Motorists have reduced their speed by 8-10 mph when the signs are activated and brake 70% of the time when the signs are activated versus 8% when the signs are off.

graph2

3) Video surveillance has determined the system is reliable in detecting wildlife and has turned the signs on 97% of the time when elk and deer are in the crosswalk.

4) Elk permeability across the highway was reduced by the fencing; however it still allows elk to cross at a rate that is likely sufficient for genetic flow.

graph3
5) Use of the structures by Coues’ white-tailed deer has increased dramatically since the completion of fencing.

6)  A cost benefit analysis based on Western Transportation Institutes estimate of average cost to society for elk-vehicle collisions, this project shows a >$600,000 benefit in its first three years. The benefits will exceed the project costs within another year or two if such a reduction inelk-vehicle collisionsis maintained.

Funding:

This project was funded through the Transportation Equity Act of the 21st Century (TEA-21) application process, more recently reauthorized by Congress as the Safe, Accountable, Flexible, Efficient, Transportation Equity Act- a Legacy for Users (SAFETEA-LU).

Related Links - Wildlife - Highway Projects in Arizona:

http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/research_elk_I17.shtml

http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/Elk_I40.shtml

http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/research_wildlife_interactions_sr64.shtml

http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/research_maintain_sheep.shtml

http://www.azgfd.gov/w_c/How_did_pronghorn_cross.shtml

http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/ecosystems/az.htm

Video Links - Wildlife - Highway Projects in Arizona:

http://www.viddler.com/explore/azgfd/videos/44/)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FxBIYDKPaoI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fCFoaipmIHE&feature=related

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OJA9-5nRUEs&NR=1

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kz4fCk7MZLk

For more information contact:

Jeff Gagnon, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086
E-mail: jeff_gagnon@yahoo.com

Scott Sprague, Arizona Game and Fish Department
5000 W. Carefree Highway, Phoenix, AZ 85086
E-mail:  ssprague@azgfd.gov


 
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