ALBEMARLE COUNTY, V.A. (WVIR) - A project to protect drivers and wildlife on a busy stretch of Interstate 64 in Albemarle County is saving lives.
VDOT installed deer fencing in 2017 to keep wildlife off the interstate. The two sites – one in Ivy and another near the Mechum River Bridge - have perfect success rates.
"It’s been even more successful than we imagined,” said Bridgete Donaldson of the Virginia Transportation Research Council.
The fencing is designed to funnel wildlife through underpasses, culverts, and under bridges. It’s a project researchers now want along roadways across Virginia.
“I couldn’t be happier,” Donaldson said. “I’m a little bit surprised at how well they’re working and how much, how many more animals and species are now using these underpasses.”
VDOT says the two projects have reduced deer collisions by 98% since they were installed. Donaldson says they've also seen a 500% increase in wildlife using the alternative route.
"They’re all bringing their young through the structures, so once they're learning that it's there they'll continue using it,” Donaldson said. “They'll go out of their way to use it and they're teaching their young to use them too."
Donaldson expects a final report out on her project by next summer along with a series of guidelines on how to build fencing and find natural crossings for wandering wildlife around Virginia.
"Hopefully that idea will spread so we can help implement this kind of thing across the state," Donaldson said.
Those doing the research estimate the project pays for itself in five years because it’s only fencing, not building a crossing structure. Over the lifetime of the fencing, researches expect about $1 million in property damage savings.