The Idaho Transportation Department hopes to saves of both animals and humans, and money, with the installation of two new signs along two dangerous stretches of state highway 21.
The signs, results of a joint effort between ITD, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game (IDFG), the City of Boise, Ada and Boise Counties, and the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation, were installed today at mileposts 10 and 21 on the highway which leads from Boise through mountainous terrain to Stanley.
The signs are designed to bring awareness to the hazardous driving conditions of the road and are the first step in planned improvements for the highway. The department estimates every year in that area there are approximately “75-100 collisions with mule deer, and 5-10 collisions with elk.”
The department hopes to reduce the amount of collisions, thereby potentially saving the people of Idaho hundreds of thousands of dollars each year. In a press release issued by the department yesterday, ITD highway engineer Greg Vitley estimated “wildlife/vehicle collisions on that stretch of roadway costs the public an estimated $750,000 to $1 million annually in insurance claims, deductibles, medical expenses, disability leave, lost wildlife resources and the lost man power and equipment resources caused by removal of the dead deer and elk by State of Idaho personnel.” Vitley also said that “it costs the public about $8,000 for each deer/vehicle collision and $18,500 for each elk/vehicle collision”
The total cost for the two signs is $1388. The Department of Fish and Game is paying the bulk of the money, $1088, for the manufacture of the signs, while ITD is paying the rest, $300, for the installation.
The signs are being dubbed “tally signs” by the department as they will have a space for interchangeable numbers on each sign. In an interview with IdahoReporter.com, ITD Public Information Specialist June Sparks said the tallies will be for dead carcasses removed from the road by Idaho Fish and Game employees, not those deer or elk which die in the wilderness after being struck by a vehicle. She also confirmed the tally number is for animal deaths only.
An underground passage way for wildlife to use to cross under the highway is also in works for the late spring, reports the department. The project will include the passage way and fencing which will guide wildlife into the tunnel. The project is expected to cost $550,000, which is reportedly drawn from the same coalition of groups working together on the signs, as well as federal stimulus dollars. The department is planning the project for milepost 18.2, an area which studies have found to be a common crossing area for wildlife.