The Colorado Department of Transportation had a plan to widen a two-mile segment of US Highway 285 from two for four lanes in Conifer. The project called for a new interchange, asphalt paving, drainage improvements and new landscaping. In an effort to make travel safer for drivers and animals, a wildlife crossing was also to be installed beneath the highway.
To widen the road, general contractor Lawrence Construction had to clear a sufficient number of trees to allow for enough space. However, because the Migratory Bird Act prohibits cutting down trees with nests from April 1st to August 31st, the contractor only had a few weeks to clear the area before losing an entire construction season. CDOT also required two lanes of road access open at all times.
The wildlife underpass, a MULTI-PLATE arch structure, was installed in phases. The natural bottom plate structure allows animals, specifically deer and elk, to cross safely under US 285. Cast-in-place concrete and modular block MSE headwalls add to the aesthetics of the structure. The
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) recognized the US-285 project for its Context Sensitive Solutions elements. The project was granted the Notable Practice award for its environmental focus, including open space set asides, reduced scale interchanges, improved geometric design, access management, wildlife crossings and aesthetic treatments.