Project to construct wildlife crossings along the East Vail Pass on Interstate 70 receives $750,000 |

Project to construct wildlife crossings along the East Vail Pass on Interstate 70 receives $750,000

As part of a feasibility study for the East Vail Pass project, Wood Consulting Services Inc. produced this map showing renderings of the wildlife crossings and their proposed locations along I-70.
Summit County Safe Passages/Courtesy image

A project to construct wildlife crossings along East Vail Pass on Interstate 70 has received $750,000 in state funding, according to a news release from the Polis administration.

Just west of Copper Mountain, the large-scale project will include three crossings — one overpass and two underpasses — across westbound lanes. The recent funding will help get the project to 30% designs, according to Stefan Ekernas, the vice-chair of the Summit County Safe Passages. 

The money comes as part of the Safe Crossings for Colorado Wildlife and Motorists bill signed into law by Gov. Jared Polis this past summer. That bill dedicated $5 million toward seven projects across the state that aim to improve wildlife connectivity and reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions.

Ekernas said the East Vail Pass project is expected to cost about $27 million, with about $1.1 million necessary for 30% designs. The non-profit has also received two private donations of $50,000 and $30,000.

A wildlife camera within 1/4 of a mile of I-70 at East Vail Pass captured this photo of a lynx, a federally threatened species.
Denver Zoo and Rocky Mountain Wild/Courtesy Photo

Several studies have shown the East Vail Pass to be one of the highest priority sections along I-70 for wildlife crossings, Ekernas said, since it has important wildlife habitat on either side. The average daily traffic volume on I-70 is about 23,000 vehicles, he said, making it difficult for wildlife to cross the highway.

In particular, lynx — a federally threatened species — have no breeding population north of the I-70, Ekernas said, and this project could help improve their populations as well as reduce vehicle collisions with wildlife.

Construction of the project is not expected to begin until at least May 2025.

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