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Hunter
12-20-2006, 4:12 PM
Interesting use of military technology....I wonder how long the sensor will be in place before they disappear?


New electric "wildlife crosswalk" is first for Arizona and could save lives of motorists and wildlife


Arizona this month activated its first-ever electric "wildlife crosswalk" aimed at reducing wildlife collisions that pose a risk to drivers and cost millions in property damage each year. Population growth and the ever-expanding network of highways in Arizona have led to increasing wildlife-vehicle encounters on some of the state's most traveled routes.

"This crosswalk on State Route 260 east of Payson has the potential to reduce the number of wildlife collisions and also make highways easier for animals to cross," says Norris Dodd, the Arizona Game and Fish Department's lead biologist on the project. "Right now, highways can be a place where wildlife is killed and wildlife populations get stuck and isolated because they can't migrate across."

The crosswalk system uses thermal infrared cameras that send images to sophisticated software normally used by the military to find targets. The software determines if the object is large enough-such as an elk or deer-to be a risk to motorists. The software sends signals to electronic warning signs placed in advance of the crosswalk in either direction, and to flashing warning signs at the crosswalk.

A three-mile stretch of elk-proof fencing near the highway will funnel animals either to the crosswalk on the west end of the fence, or to the east, where there are underpasses.

"Data on another section of this highway shows a combination of fencing and underpasses to be effective in reducing wildlife collisions," says Tom Goodman, resident engineer for the Arizona Department of Transportation's Payson office. "Because the west end of the fencing on this stretch of highway doesn't have an underpass, bridge, canyon or cliff for connecting the fence, we're hoping the crosswalk will address any elk that do an 'end-run' at this spot."

Several partners-the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Arizona Department of Transportation, Federal Highway Administration, Tonto National Forest and contractors ElectroBraid Fence, Inc., and AZTEC Engineering, Inc.-developed the crosswalk system to work in conjunction with previously constructed underpasses and bridges being used as part of the Arizona Department of Transportation's award-winning State Route 260 reconstruction project.

"Past measures on the highway have aimed at modifying elk travel behavior. The crosswalk tries to get humans to modify their behavior as well, by heeding the warnings, slowing down and reducing their chance of an encounter with a 600-pound animal," says Dodd.

The crosswalk system will be fine-tuned and modified where necessary before becoming completely operational. Success will be measured by monitoring the wildlife-vehicle collision rate, tracking elk with Global Positioning System telemetry, counting animals at the crosswalk with video cameras, and tracking and comparing average vehicle speeds before and after the warning signs are activated.

"If the data shows this project to be successful, the crosswalk concept could be considered elsewhere as a way of making other roads safer for wildlife and motorists," says Steve Thomas of the Federal Highway Administration.

M. Sage
12-20-2006, 5:16 PM
Great idea!

AZ has ELK!? Man, wish I'd have known that little tidbit when I was blazing down I10 at 90 or so in the darkness!!!

Whitesmoke
12-20-2006, 6:37 PM
Great idea!

AZ has ELK!? Man, wish I'd have known that little tidbit when I was blazing down I10 at 90 or so in the darkness!!!


Believe it or not...AZ has a BUNCH of Elk. CA has "A" Elk...lol.