2. UDOT News

UDOT receives new wildlife underpass grant 

Utah among 17 states to receive $110 million to improve road safety by preventing deadly wildlife-vehicle crashes

Image courtesy of Utah Division of Wildlife Resources

The Utah Department of Transportation (UDOT) has been awarded nearly $5.5 million for the construction of wildlife underpasses near Kanab as part of the US-89 Safety Corridor Project. The funds are a part of $110 million being awarded to 17 states by the Federal Highway Administration’s Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program. 

As a part of its efforts to improve safety on Utah roads, UDOT will use the federal funds to construct three wildlife underpasses and extend existing wildlife fencing by 7.2 miles along US-89 near Kanab. In addition to the seven currently existing underpasses, this project will reduce the number of wildlife-vehicle collisions and reconnect mule deer critical ranges.

In the last 5 ½ years, there have been 72 wildlife-vehicle collisions in this area, including one fatality. The total number of wildlife-vehicle collisions is likely even higher, as UDOT estimates half of all wildlife-vehicle collisions aren’t reported to authorities. These funds will help UDOT and the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources reduce the risk of wildlife-vehicle collisions, said Matt Howard, UDOT’s natural resource manager. 

“US-89 is a major area of concern because of its increasing number of wildlife-vehicle collisions and lack of medical facilities in the area to treat people involved in collisions,” he said. “We are always looking at ways to improve safety on our roads. We hope these undercrossings and new fencing will do just that.”

US-89 traverses important wildlife habitat. In particular, the Paunsaugunt mule deer herd crosses US-89 at least twice a year during its migration periods. The Paunsaugunt Plateau to the north of the highway—the location of Bryce Canyon National Park, Grand Staircase–Escalante National Monument, and Kodachrome Basin State Park—is a crucial summer range, while the Buckskin Mountains area and other locations south of the highway—near Grand Canyon National Park—are crucial winter range. US-89 is a dangerous obstacle for this important herd. 

“We are very excited about Utah receiving this grant funding to help us reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions along U.S. 89 near Kanab,” Utah Division of Wildlife Resources Impact Analysis Coordinator Nicole Nielson said. “This area is an important migration corridor for mule deer traveling from their winter and summer habitat ranges, and in 2023, 36 deer were hit and killed in this area while attempting to make those migrations.

“We are hopeful that the additional fencing and wildlife underpasses implemented in this area through this new funding will reduce the wildlife-vehicle collisions in this area,” Nielson added. “We really appreciate the partnership with UDOT and several other organizations — as well as the Utah Legislature for allocating matching funds — to help make this project a reality.” 

UDOT has more than 60 wildlife crossings throughout the state including dedicated crossings or existing culverts. 

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