Monday, January 24, 2011

Designing Transportation Infrastructure for Wildlife at TRB and Amherst

The Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting has now begun in Washington DC and I am very pleased to see coverage in The New York Times. Today, it is reporting on the finalists and the winner of a design competition to help animals in crossing a road in Colorado. According to the article: At a picturesque spot in the mountains near the ski resorts of Vail and Breckenridge, Colo., two streams of traffic converge: people driving east and west on Interstate 70, and animals — black bears, cougars, bobcats, elk and deer — headed north and south to feed and mate. When they collide, the animal is almost always killed and the vehicle badly damaged, even if the driver is lucky enough to escape injury.

This is an example of multimodal/multiclass transportation and I will definitely bring it to the attention of my students since transportation need not just be about moving people and products!

The winner of the animal design crossing is Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates, a landscape architecture firm with offices in New York City and Cambridge, MA. The design team, associated with the national construction firm HNTB, submitted a proposal for a bridge made of lightweight precast concrete panels that are snapped into place and covered with foliage.

The award is for $40,000.

In Amherst, the "wildlife" crossing design is in the form of tunnels and this initiative (without any financial incentives, I might add) was initiated decades ago, to assist salamanders crossing Henry Street so that they could mate. The New York Times reported on this crossing, with human intervention, back in 1988.

Who knows if the winning animal bridge design will actually be implemented in Colorado. In Amherst, the town actually built two tunnels decades ago and the salamander crossing has become an annual town event! What our town did is even reported on the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration website, complete with photos of salamanders! The tunnels were made possible through the efforts of the Amherst Department of Public Works, UMass Amherst, the MA Audubon Society, the Hitchcock Center (where my daughter and many others volunteer), and local residents.

See the photo above of the salamander crossing sign, which is a short walk from our home.