CPW: Hwy 9 is ‘a serious human safety concern’
KREMMLING — Colorado Parks and Wildlife is asking hunters, anglers, skiers, outdoor recreationists and the general public to join the agency in support of the “Highway 9 Safety Project.” This Colorado Department of Transportation project includes the construction of wildlife overpasses and underpasses to help reduce vehicle-wildlife collisions on a 10.6-mile stretch of Highway 9 in Grand County, between Green Mountain Reservoir and the Colorado River near Kremmling.
According to CDOT, wildlife collisions in this area have led to nearly 600 vehicular accidents in the last 20 years, including 16 human fatalities and almost 200 injuries. Thirty-five percent of the collisions were wildlife related. In addition, there have been nearly 450 animals killed — mostly mule deer — in the last eight years alone.
The plan calls for the construction of two overpasses and five underpasses designed specifically for wildlife and will be the first of its kind in Colorado.
“They will allow animals to pass as motorists travel safely above or below,” said Lyle Sidener, area wildlife manager for CPW in Hot Sulphur Springs. “It’s a great idea (and) the time has come in Colorado, but in order to make it happen, we will need statewide support.”
Colorado Parks and Wildlife personnel from the Hot Sulphur Springs office have provided significant input and man-hours into the design of the project, including the location of the wildlife crossings and the design of wildlife-specific fencing along the roadside. Other improvements to the highway’s infrastructure include widening of the shoulders and improvements to sightlines.
Similar highway wildlife crossing have been built in other countries and throughout the United States, including Wyoming, Florida and California.
Transportation officials say an estimated 3,600 vehicles, including 290 trucks, travel on Highway 9 each day filled with people heading to hunting, angling, skiing, state parks and sightseeing destinations in the northwest part of the state. The number of vehicles is expected to continue rising each year.
“It’s a serious human safety concern,” continued Sidener. “The collisions lead to human fatalities and injuries, millions in property damage and the death of far too much wildlife.”
Funding the $46 million project, however, remains a major hurdle. To provide local governments an opportunity to fund the project, CDOT recently created RAMP, or the Responsible Acceleration of Maintenance and Partnerships.
RAMP stipulates that local governments provide 20 percent of the total project costs. Grand County must secure $9.2 million to qualify the Highway 9 safety improvements for RAMP consideration.
To assist Grand County in raising the necessary funds, a group of individuals from Grand, Jackson and Summit counties has formed “Citizens for a Safe Highway 9.” The group’s mission is to secure financial support from anyone who uses the highway.
“This is not only a concern for local citizens,” said Mike Ritschard, chairman of Citizens for a Safe Highway 9. “Because it is the main highway connecting the Front Range and the rest of the state to Grand, Routt, Jackson and Moffat counties, everyone has a stake in making it safer.”
With a pledge of $4 million from the Blue Valley Ranch in Kremmling, Citizens for a Safe Highway 9 needs to raise $4.3 million to help Grand County meet its obligation under RAMP.
Ritschard says the deadline to raise the remaining balance is June 17, 2013, and urges the public to make donations and send letters of support as soon as possible to:
Citizens for a Safe Hwy 9
C/O Grand Foundation
P.O. Box 1342 Winter Park, CO 80482
To access the pledge form online, go to http://www.bit.ly/grandcountypledge
For more information about the project from CDOT, go to http://www.coloradodot.info/projects/sh9grandcounty
For more information about RAMP go to http://www.bit.ly/rampcdot
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