Design Competition Seeks to Make Wildlife Crossings Safer

January 16, 2011 Updated: October 1, 2015

Three moose walk across a road in Pinedale, Wyoming. A Canadian team has made the short list in an international design competition to help solve the problem of dangerous roadway collisions between wildlife and vehicles. (Michael Smith/Newsmakers)
Three moose walk across a road in Pinedale, Wyoming. A Canadian team has made the short list in an international design competition to help solve the problem of dangerous roadway collisions between wildlife and vehicles. (Michael Smith/Newsmakers)
A Canadian team has made the short list in an international design competition to help solve a worsening dilemma on roadways in many countries: dangerous collisions between wildlife and vehicles.

Among the five finalists is a team led by Toronto Landscape Architecture firm Janet Rosenberg & Associates, which has been engaged in the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront.

The competition was initiated by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University and the Woodcock Foundation in New York City, with support from a variety of Canadian and U.S. state agencies and organizations.

The creators of the ARC International Wildlife Crossing Structure Design Competition sought entries that showed “innovation in feasible, buildable, context-sensitive, and compelling design solutions for safe, efficient, cost-effective, and ecologically responsive wildlife crossings,” according to ARC’s website.

The first of its kind, the competition was open to landscape architects, transportation and structural engineers, and ecologists worldwide. The goal is to raise international awareness of a need to “better reconcile the construction and maintenance of road networks with wildlife movement,” ARC said.

The creators chose a site with ongoing serious problems of animal movement along the heavily travelled West Vail Pass on busy Interstate Highway 70 near the ski centre of Vail, Colorado.

The highway bisects a critical habitat of a thick mountain forest heavily populated with wide-ranging species including black bears, cougars, bobcats and lynx, coyote, elk, deer, and marten.

In the U.S., crashes between wildlife and motor vehicles have grown by 50 percent in the last 15 years, according to the Federal Highway Administration, with estimates as high as two million collisions annually.

Canada is also seriously challenged by the problem. However, the system of wildlife crossings in Banff, Alberta, is viewed as among the world’s best and most successful. There are now 41 crossing structures along 75 kilometres of highways, including six overpasses.

Even so, Alberta wildlife ecologist and research scientist Tony Clevenger, one of the jurors for the competition, says there’s room for improvement.

“Banff is the world leader in wildlife crossings but they’re in a static mould and the price of the structures keeps going up and up. The ideas brought forward in this competition are making us think about how to build these structures in new ways.”

In five spectacular designs, landscape architects have created large, landscaped convex arcs which appear as a habitat continuous with the surrounding forest and promise to allow wildlife species to move safely over I-70. The designs can be viewed at www.arc-competition.com/finalists.php.

Each of the five finalists will be awarded $15,000 for the excellence of their designs, while the winning team will receive $40,000.

It is expected the winning design will inspire other structures as well as revolutionize and popularize the notion of crossing structures given the exacting criteria of the competition, which include cost-effectiveness, ecological sensitivity, sustainability, and high standards of human and animal safety.

A presentation by the five finalists and the selection of the winner will held in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 23.