Priority InitiativeI-70 East Vail Pass Wildlife Crossings
East Vail Project Update
Design and Feasibility Study for East Vail Pass Crossings
We are thrilled to share the conceptual designs for three wildlife crossings on I-70 East Vail Pass. With funding from Vail Resorts, Arapahoe Basin, and the Center for Large Landscapes, Wood Engineering developed and evaluated preliminary engineering designs for each crossing structure location. This is a huge step forward towards getting these crossing structures built.
The three structures in the study—two underpasses and an overpass—were recommended in the Summit County Safe Passages Plan for the westbound lanes of I-70 on East Vail Pass. These structures will connect to existing span bridges on eastbound I-70, completing the connection across the entire highway. For wildlife, this will provide safe passages between the vast swathes of the White River National Forest to the north and south of the interstate.
Why East Vail Pass?
The I-70 East Vail Pass has long been identified as an ecologically significant site both within and beyond Colorado for a variety of wildlife species including elk, mule deer and one of the few known breeding populations of Canada lynx outside of southwest Colorado. Nestled in the mountains between Copper Mountain and the top of Vail Pass, this corridor is encompassed entirely by the White River National Forest, including the Eagles Nest Wilderness to the north.
Heavily Trafficked Corridor
Interstate 70 and its constant traffic flows effectively bisect wildlife movements north and south of the interstate. An important travel corridor for Colorado’s adventure community, residents, tourists and industries, this stretch of I-70 sees, on average, 22,000 vehicles a day. This much traffic presents a significant barrier to wildlife and many animals no longer attempt to cross. Those that do are often unsuccessful.
East Vail Pass Project Overview & Vision
What We Need to Improve Wildlife Connectivity
I-70 on East Vail Pass is a divided highway with a wide, natural, open median. Five large span bridges are present under the eastbound highway lanes; however, there is only one bridge under the westbound lanes and no direct connections between these bridges exist to allow for wildlife passage. Three crossing structures are recommended across the westbound lanes to improve connectivity for wildlife- two underpasses and what could be Colorado’s first wildlife overpass on I-70. A diversity of crossing structures will ensure suitable crossing opportunities for a larger variety of species.
The Feasibility Study: Engineering a Vision
A feasibility study, completed in the Fall of 2020 by Wood Engineering, was the first step to realizing this vision. This study developed and evaluated preliminary engineering designs for each crossing structure location and resulted in a detailed wildlife crossing system for East Vail Pass.
Learn More About the Design of the Wildlife Crossing Structures that Could Reconnect East Vail Pass
The Vail Pass Wildlife Byway protects one the most intact and important habitats for many wildlife species along the mountain corridors. But, wildlife movement and habitat is at risk due to the increasing traffic.
Now that the The I-70 East Vail Pass Wildlife Crossings Feasibility Study is complete, next steps include conducting environmental review processes, completing final engineering designs, and constructing the mitigation infrastructure.
Join Us in the Field
Citizen Science Monitoring
with Citizen science
Wildlife monitoring is an essential step in assessing how effective wildlife crossing structures are in restoring wildlife movement corridors. Citizen scientists have been helping monitor wildlife using remote triggered cameras along East Vail Pass since 2015. Nearly every species of wildlife found in Colorado’s high mountains has been documented using habitat in the Vail Pass Wildlife Byway.
Citizen Science monitoring is brought to you by our partners, Rocky Mountain Wild and Denver Zoo
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Your Help is Critical
Your contribution today will help implement the East Vail Pass Wildlife Crossings and show that this project has wide community support.