February 15, 2012
Amy Cavender tends to tense up when she’s driving on Interstate 25 just south of Fountain.
Her home is between Colorado Springs and Pueblo and the stretch of road between Fountain and the Pikes Peak International Raceway often has a deer carcass on the side of the road or deer standing near the busy interstate, attempting to cross between speeding cars. Once, a deer ran out behind her vehicle and was slammed by the truck behind her.
“I always pay close attention when I’m driving there,” she said. “Those deer are a huge problem.”
She’s not the only one who thinks so.
In late January, the Colorado Department of Transportation started building huge fences along both sides of the interstate between exits 122 and 128. They are designed to steer the deer toward box culverts under the highway where they can cross safely. The 8-feet high woven steel fences should help reduce the deer-related crashes in the area, said Jody Pieper, a project engineer for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
He said the high traffic volume, high speeds and large number of deer in the area make a dangerous combination.
“You go 10 miles north or south and it’s not as much of a problem,” he said. “But there, it’s a recipe for disaster.”
It was a disaster in the early morning of Dec. 17, 2009. About 1:30 a.m. that day a car hit a deer near Fountain and then got stalled in the road because of the damage. About 10 minutes later, another vehicle on the highway swerved to miss the stalled vehicle and rolled. Heather Clinton, 20, of San Manual, Ariz. died in the rollover crash and her passenger suffered serious injuries.
Pieper didn’t have specific numbers on the crashes deer have caused, but said that the fences are the only ones being built between Colorado Springs and Trinidad because of the problem in the area. Most of the wildlife barrier fences in Colorado are along Interstate 70, which cuts through mountainous regions filled with wildlife.
“Along that stretch, (from Colorado Springs to Trinidad) we see a lot of blowing snow and that sort of thing, but for some reason that stretch of the road has a deer problem.”
The project has a $953,000 price tag, most of which is covered by federal funds, he said.
Construction will be finished no later than the end of June, Pieper said. When completed, the fence will look almost like cloth and deer must walk around it and, it is hoped, choose to cross in the culverts. Workers also are building ramps along the side of the fence closest to the interstate. If a deer somehow gets trapped between the road and the fence, it would be able to climb the ramp and jump off to safety on the other side, he said.
For her part, Cavender said she is glad for the fences and thinks her commute will now be safer.
“If that fence saves even one life, it will be worth it.”
Contact Maria St. Louis-Sanchez: 636-0274
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