Underneath Montana's Interstate 15 south of Helena and Montana City, an abandoned stretch of railroad has been reclaimed for wildlife. And the Montana Department of Transportation (MDT) converted the grassy path to a wildlife crossing without having to make a single major improvement. The new crossing is ideal for area wildlife, since it lies between a developing subdivision in the foothills of the Elkhorn Mountains and Prickly Pear Creek--an important wildlife corridor between the Elkhorns and the Continental Divide. The trails on the abandoned railroad path are a hot spot for animal-vehicle collisions, because when deer and other ungulates "pop out" onto I-15 from behind the guardrail on the fill slopes below, drivers often can't see the animals in time. So MDT crews installed 8-foot-high woven wire fencing along the fill slopes and ended it on top of large cut slopes above the highway, where deer trying to cross I-15 can be more easily seen by the traveling public. If a few deer manage to find their way around the end of the fence and become trapped on the highway, two one-way vegetated "jump-outs" offer a convenient escape route. The deer walk up the gently sloping earthen ramp and jump out over a retaining wall to the "safe" side of the fence.
--Aug 21, 2006
|The former rail underpass provides adequate space for large animals to cross below the highway.|