With about 200 people killed each year in wildlife-vehicle collisions, the Federal Highway Administration has launched the $350 million Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program to reduce the hazard, it said in a press release Tuesday.
The five years of dedicated funding includes $111 million this year for state and local governments to research safety innovations and mapping and tracking tools as well as design and construct overpasses and underpasses for wildlife, among other activities. Applications for 2023 are due Aug. 1.
“There are proven practices to prevent crashes between vehicles and wildlife, and with this investment, we’re going to take commonsense steps to reduce collisions and make roads safer for rural and urban communities alike,” Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt said in a statement.
There are more than 1 million wildlife-vehicle collisions each year, according to the FHWA, with such collisions leading to tens of thousands of injuries and causing over $8 billion in damage annually.
The U.S. Department of Transportation said the program supports the National Roadway Safety Strategy it unveiled in January 2022, which aims to eliminate roadway deaths and serious injuries.
“By launching the Wildlife Crossings Pilot Program, we are taking an important step to prevent deadly crashes in communities across the country and make America’s roadways safer for everyone who uses them,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said in a statement.
Traffic deaths in the U.S. declined by 0.2% in the first nine months of 2022 compared with the same period in 2021, according to the latest National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates. But traffic fatalities climbed nearly 5% in 2020 and an estimated 12% in 2021 compared with the previous years, according to NHTSA.
In addition to curbing traffic deaths and injuries, all projects under the Wildlife Crossings Program should aim to “improve habitat connectivity for terrestrial and aquatic species,” the press release said.
According to the Pew Charitable Trusts, wildlife crossings reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions by up to 90% when they are properly sited and designed.
Congress created and funded the Wildlife Crossings Program under the 2021 bipartisan infrastructure law.