Federal grants given to 17 states to help keep wildlife off roads

The U.S. Department of Transportation is awarding $110 million for projects across 17 states to help reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife, including building more wildlife crossings above and below busy roads and installing more fencing. 

The largest grant, totaling $24.4 million, was given to the Wyoming Department of Transportation to build multiple underpasses, an overpass and high-barrier fencing along part of U.S. Route 189 in the southwestern part of the state. 

Arizona received $24 million to add new fencing and double cattle guards along Interstate 17 to reduce wildlife collisions and increase habitat connectivity for the elk in the area. 

One of the largest overpasses in North America will be built in Colorado thanks to the grant money, the DOT said. The Greenland Wildlife Overpass will connect Denver and Colorado Springs to help reduce collisions on Interstate 25 with elk and mule deer. 

Over $8 million was given to the Stillaguamish Tribe in Washington State for a wildlife overpass with fencing and California received $8 million to add fencing and expand an existing culvert along U.S. Route 101 near the coast. 

Lastly, Pennsylvania was awarded over $800,000 to develop a strategic plan with their state agencies on the safe management of wildlife crossings. 

According to a report from the DOT’s Federal Highway Administration, it’s estimated there are between one and two million collisions with wildfires across the U.S. every year. About 26,000 of those crashes per year result in injuries to the occupants of the vehicles. 

Most of those crashes involved deer, the report said. The average cost of repairing a vehicle after a collision with a deer was nearly $2,000, and for collisions with larger animals like elk and moose, the average repair cost is between $3,000 and $4,000. 

Calculating vehicle repairs, medical bills, first responder services and removal and disposal of the animals involved, the DOT estimated that over $8 billion is spent annually on crashes involving wildlife. 

“Every year, too many Americans are injured or killed in crashes involving cars and wildlife, especially in rural areas – but President Biden is tackling this challenge through these first-ever roadway safety grants,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a press release. “The projects we’re funding today in 17 states will reduce collisions between drivers and wildlife and save American lives.”

The competitive grants were awarded under the new Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program, which is funded by President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the agency said. 

You can read the full list of grant recipients for this fiscal year here.