The Colorado Department of Transportation held a ribbon cutting recently to celebrate the completion of the $10.4 million I-70 & Genesee Wildlife Underpass, the first major wildlife crossing to be constructed along the Interstate 70 Mountain Corridor. This project is the first of several I-70 Floyd Hill Early Projects to be completed. To increase safety for wildlife and motorists, crews built a bridge to create a wildlife underpass beneath I-70 and placed two miles of wildlife fencing and wildlife escape ramps along both directions of I-70 between Genesee (Exit 254) and Lookout Mountain (Exit 256).

“Over the past five years, state laws signed by the Governor have put a larger emphasis on balancing the protection of Colorado's wildlife, their habitat and migratory routes with protecting the safety of Coloradans,” said Marlon Reis, Colorado's First Gentleman. “Today's event truly highlights what can be accomplished through partnerships among government agencies, and support from public organizations and nonprofit groups who helped make this project possible.”

In Colorado, more than 5,000 wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVC) are reported to law enforcement each year, costing $80 million annually in associated accident response and cleanup, medical expenses, and the value of wildlife loss in the collisions. Up to two-thirds of WVCs go unreported. I-70 at Genesee experiences the highest number of WVCs on I-70 east of the Eisenhower-Johnson Memorial Tunnel and the new underpass and fencing are anticipated to decrease WVCs by up to 90 percent.

“Colorado has one of the nation's leading programs to protect traveler safety by avoiding dangerous collisions between drivers and wildlife,” said Shoshana Lew, CDOT executive director. “To date, we have built more than 100 structures that allow terrestrial wildlife and aquatic movement in the form of pipe culverts, overpasses, concrete box culverts, underpasses and bridges with nearly 450 miles of fencing accompanying them. This program benefits from tremendous collaboration between CDOT and our partners at the Department of Natural Resources, thanks to an executive order from Governor Polis.”

The ribbon cutting celebration was held adjacent to the new wildlife underpass and included a walking tour under the highway. The event highlighted the benefits of the project and recognized the partnerships among government agencies, public organizations, nonprofit groups and private individuals that made the project possible. The primary users of the wildlife underpass are elk and mule deer, but black bear, mountain lion, coyote, bobcat and other small mammal species are anticipated to traverse the crossing.

“Wildlife need to move daily and between seasonal ranges to maintain resiliency in response to habitat conditions and changing pressures on the landscape,” said Jeff Davis, Colorado Parks and Wildlife director. “With increasing human populations and traffic volumes in Colorado, we need to continue to develop effective solutions for wildlife to access valuable resources to maintain healthy populations. CDOT and CPW have together created statewide approaches to wildlife-highway mitigation and identified where to focus transportation dollars across Colorado to improve safe passage for motorists and wildlife. I'm thrilled to see another component of a statewide plan come to fruition today.”