A pair of Western Washington critter crossing projects have received federal grants, the US Department of Transportation announced today.
Both are focused on elk in the lowlands and reducing vehicular collisions with wildlife, with funding going to local tribes.
In northern Puget Sound, the Stillaguamish Tribe is set to receive $8.5 million for the design and construction of an overpass and fencing along State Route 20 near Lyman.
Located at milepost 76.2 and dubbed the Red Cabin Creek Wildlife Overpass, the crossing “will span two lanes of traffic and is aimed at helping multiple species, including elk.”
The North Cascades’ valley floor is a hotspot for collisions with the local elk herd, with the state’s roadkill database map shows 36 collected between Sedro-Woolley and Concrete since August 2020. A 2018 WDFW management plan for the wapiti states that “crashes more than doubled” between 2001-06 and 2007-11.”
Well to the south, the Puyallup Tribe will use a $216,250 grant to help wrap up the planning and scoping of a series of wildlife crossings in Lewis County in coordination with WDFW, WashDOT, USFS and the Medicine Creek Treaty Tribes.
“This project location addresses an area of high concern for (wildlife vehicle collisions) due to large numbers of elk-vehicle collisions on SR 12 across the 24-mile project corridor,” DOT stated.
The two grants were among the first disbursed in a new nationwide wildlife crossings pilot program funded via the Biden Administration’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. A total of 19 projects received $110 million in the initial phase of the $350 million program.
“The projects we’re funding today in 17 states will reduce collisions between drivers and wildlife and save American lives,” said U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in a press release.
“These roadway safety investments will ensure that motorists and wildlife get to their destinations safely and are a win-win for safety and the environment,” added Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt.
The Northwest is home to a slowly growing number of dedicated wildlife crossings, including east of Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 and south of Bend on US 97, but some projects have had to be funded privately while waiting on dollars from state lawmakers.