Friday, November 2, 2012

ITD looking at wildlife conflicts on highway

Agency considering changes in nighttime speed limit


By TERRY SMITH
Express Staff Writer

The high number of vehicle-versus-wildlife accidents on state Highway 75 in the Wood River Valley has caught the attention of the Idaho Transportation Department.

“We’re talking about speed limits right now,” Devin Rigby, district engineer for ITD District 4 in Shoshone, said at a meeting of the Blaine County Regional Transportation Committee on Thursday. Rigby explained that ITD, the agency that regulates highway speed limits, has been working with Blaine County Sheriff Gene Ramsey to help mitigate the high number of vehicle collisions with elk and deer.

Rigby said other options are being considered, such as sensing devices that could activate warnings to drivers when deer and elk are in the vicinity of the roadway. However, he said an elk or deer migration underpass, such as has been used elsewhere to reduce collisions with wildlife, is not a likely solution for the Wood River Valley.

Rigby explained that the two main problem areas on the highway with elk conflicts are in the Peregrine Ranch area north of Hailey and in the vicinity of East Fork Road. Both areas have “resident herds,” he said, who stay in the basic area throughout the year. He said wildlife underpasses, where large fences and channeling barriers have to be constructed to guide animals to a crossing, are typically only successful with migrating herds.

Ramsey, who attended Thursday’s meeting, said he is currently favoring lighted speed limit signs that could be placed in high-conflict areas and are triggered by sensors when large animals are near the roadway. The signs would temporary advise drivers of a lower speed limit as long as the sensors were activated.

The wildlife discussion occurred during the meeting when committee members were talking about establishing priorities for various funding requests to ITD for the upcoming year. Committee members agreed to add a wildlife accident mitigation option to the list of funding priorities.

Blaine County Commissioner Angenie McCleary, who chairs the committee, explained that the county, local municipalities and organizations such as Mountain Rides Transportation Authority, which all rely on ITD for funding grants, have been working together for about the past year in a collaborative effort to make grant applications.

“We’re prioritizing as a group of communities rather than working separately,” McCleary said.

Entities represented on the committee recently submitted their individual funding priorities for ITD grants and will next vote on overall priorities to be determined by the committee.

McCleary said she hopes a final list of priorities can be compiled within the next week.


Terry Smith: tsmith@mtexpress.com




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