Highway 82 wildlife work nears completion | AspenTimes.com

Highway 82 wildlife work nears completion

John Stroud
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

John Stroud/Post IndependentCrews from Waterford Corp. of Fort Collins work to install a wildlife safety fence along Highway 82 near Aspen Glen between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale, where there's a high rate of vehicle-wildlife collisions especially during the winter months. The project is expected to be completed later this month.

CARBONDALE – Just as work on a series of wildlife safety improvements along Highway 82 between Glenwood Springs and Carbondale are nearing completion, a local advocate for further protections will have the ear of Rep. Kathleen Curry later this week.

“We will be meeting with Rep. Curry in Frisco on Friday, and have asked her to save a spot on her legislative roll for a bill next session,” said Frosty Merriott, a Carbondale trustee and active member of the local Sierra Club.

Merriott has long been seeking additional protections within identified wildlife migration corridors around the state, where vehicle-wildlife collisions are high, including portions of Highway 82.

Among them would be a nighttime speed limit, similar to the one on State Highway 13 between Rifle and Meeker. Merriott also seeks a doubling of fines for speeding in these areas at night.

Other measures which would involve funding of some sort, could include overpasses for larger animals to pass over highways, and underpasses for smaller animals.

Merriott has asked representatives from the Colorado Department of Transportation, Colorado State Patrol and the Division of Wildlife to attend the meeting, along with other wildlife protection advocates.

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Wildlife safety fencing, such as that being installed along either side of Highway 82 near Aspen Glen, does not fix the problem in and of itself, Merriott said.

“There has to be a crossing of some sort at some point,” he said. “All it’s going to do is divert the problem.

“The goal of Friday’s meeting is to try to be educational, and see what kind of legislation we can do,” he said.

Meanwhile, construction crews from Waterford Corp. of Fort Collins, contracting with CDOT, are completing the final stages of work along Highway 82.

“Crews have completed most of the fence on the north side of the highway, and are finishing up on three wildlife escape ramps, where deer and elk can go up and over the fence,” said CDOT spokesperson Nancy Shanks.

Work is also nearly complete on wildlife guards and the entrance to Aspen Glen. The guards work like cattle guards, only they’re wider because elk and deer can jump farther, Shanks explained

“We’re on target to complete the work prior to Thanksgiving,” she said.

She also noted that, at Merriott’s suggestion, some existing tunnels that run under the road were kept clear to allow smaller animals to pass through to the other side. CDOT had initially planned to close them off.

Funding for the project came from the federal Hazard Elimination Safety Funds, and did not involve federal stimulus dollars, she said.

jstroud@postindependent.com