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February 26, 2010

Wildlife overpass to be built on Highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury

MTO

The location of Ontario’s first elevated wildlife overpass was chosen to economize on construction costs by using the natural topography to create the grade separation.

FEATURE | Roadbuilding

First overhead animal crossing planned for Highway 69 widening

A wildlife bridge set for Highway 69 will save both humans and animals and is the first of its kind in Ontario.

The Ontario Ministry of Transportation (MTO) is building its first four-lane overhead “eco-passage” in co-operation with the Ministry of Natural Resources.

About 115 kilometres of Highway 69 between Parry Sound and Sudbury is being expanded to four lanes, heightening the need to implement wildlife protection measures and improve driver safety. The wildlife bridge is part of the 13-kilometre construction project stretching south from the town of Estaire.

The $58.3-million contract for that road section and the bridge was awarded to Aecon Construction and Materials Ltd.

The 30-metre-wide wildlife bridge is in an area where a number of large animal collisions had been recorded — and not just raccoons or porcupines. Animals common in the area include white-tailed deer, moose, elk and black bears.

The specific location was chosen to economize on construction costs by using the natural topography to create the grade separation. The bridge abutments sit on a rocky outcropping in the median and the approaches consist of the natural lay of the land. A series of fences discourages animals from crossing anywhere else and gently guides wildlife toward the bridge.

Other features designed to encourage wildlife use include: approaches that are gradual and consist of the existing lay of the land; landscaping that matches the adjacent natural environment; and concrete barrier walls to prevent noise and light impacts from vehicles travelling under the bridge.

Similar bridges dedicated to wildlife protection have been constructed in Banff National Park, as well as in other jurisdictions in the U.S. and Europe.

“Although it will not have vehicles on it, there will be a static load from the soil overburden required to landscape the structure,” says Heather Garbutt, senior transportation environmental planner, planning and environmental section, provincial highway management, with MTO’s northeastern region. “There will also be no snow removal from the structure.”

While the structure was completed by the end of 2010, the bridge will be landscaped later this year, with trees, shrubs, brush piles and rocks, to provide a fully naturalized environment, visually shielded from traffic. The bridge should be ready for animal traffic by the fall of 2011.

MTO has also designed an under-crossing to the north of the bridge that’s being monitored for comparison purposes.

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