The U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) on Dec. 5 announced an $8 million grant to the California Department of Transportation to make roadway improvements that aim to reduce collisions between vehicles and wildlife. California is one of 17 states selected to receive funding in the first round of $110 million grants for 19 wildlife crossing projects, including four Indian Tribes.
The funding is made possible by a new program in the Biden Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) that supports projects to construct wildlife crossings over and below busy roads, add fencing, acquire tracking and mapping tools, and more. Overall, BIL makes a total of $350 million available over five years under the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program.
Each year, it is estimated that there are more than one million wildlife vehicle collisions in the U.S. Wildlife-vehicle collisions involving large animals result in injuries to drivers and their passengers, representing approximately 200 human fatalities and 26,000 injuries to drivers and their passengers each year. These collisions also cost the public more than $10 billion annually. This includes economic costs caused by wildlife crashes, such as loss of income, medical costs, property damage, and more.
“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. “The projects we’re funding today in 17 states will reduce collisions between drivers and wildlife and save American lives.”
“We are pleased to announce the first round of grants under the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program to projects that will significantly reduce the number of collisions between motorists and wildlife,” said Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt. “These roadway safety investments will ensure that motorists and wildlife in California get to their destinations safely and are a win-win for safety and the environment.”
The $8 million grant, awarded to the California Department of Transportation, will be used to reduce wildlife vehicle collisions, and connect animal habitats between protected State Park lands on either side of US 101 in Goleta. Improvements include increasing the size of an existing culvert and installation of 2.5 miles of fencing at road crossings, allowing for safer roads for drivers.
The Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program supports the Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS), which sets a goal of achieving zero roadway deaths and serious injuries through a Safe System Approach to prevent crashes from happening in the first place. Projects funded by this program reduce wildlife crashes which will reduce the economic impact caused by those crashes (such as loss of income, medical costs, property damage, and decline in productivity and quality of life) while simultaneously improving habitat connectivity to sustain the environment and improve the overall safety of the traveling public.
The full list of project selections can be found at Wildlife Crossings Program | FHWA (dot.gov).