The campaign to construct a wildlife bridge over I-70 near West Vail Pass got a major boost this week when the site was selected as the focus for a new, international design competition of wildlife crossing structures.
Long identified as a problem area for wildlife migration, the traffic-heavy pass was chosen over 21 other candidates for the first-ever North American Wildlife Crossing Structure Design Competition, also known as ARC. The contest encourages design teams to explore new methods and materials in order to reduce the havoc involved in SUV-meets-Bambi encounters.
Governor Bill Ritter has enthused over the selection, saying that the competition will "cultivate innovative ideas to reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions," which are on the rise in Colorado and other western states.
Working with the Colorado Department of Transportation, wildlife groups identified a particular stretch of I-70 on the west side of Vail Pass as a critical crossing area for several species; two of the fourteen lynx killed on state roads since 1999 were found in the vicinity. CDOT has spent $400,000 on preliminary design work, but locating funds to build a wildlife bridge spanning the highway remains a challenge -- one explored in my July feature "A Bridge to Somewhere."
The ARC competition won't magically produce the cash to get the job done, but it should generate some interesting ideas of how such a bridge -- the first in the United States -- might actually look. And how to get the four-legged traffic to take the scenic route.
Keep Westword Free... Since we started Westword, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Denver, and we would like to keep it that way. Offering our readers free access to incisive coverage of local news, food and culture. Producing stories on everything from political scandals to the hottest new bands, with gutsy reporting, stylish writing, and staffers who've won everything from the Society of Professional Journalists' Sigma Delta Chi feature-writing award to the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. But with local journalism's existence under siege and advertising revenue setbacks having a larger impact, it is important now more than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" membership program, allowing us to keep covering Denver with no paywalls.