A unique worldwide competition in Washington, D.C. could have major implications on transportation and wildlife in the Banff area.
Landscape architects from all over the world were challenged to design the best highway wildlife crossings.
Five finalists gathered in the U.S. capital to present their projects, and judges announced the winner — a firm from New York — on Sunday night.
Wildlife scientist Anthony Clevenger was one of the five judges in the ARC International Wildlife Crossing Infrastructure Design Competition. He has studied road effects on wildlife in Banff, and said Parks Canada has already expressed interest in the final projects for sections of the Trans-Canada Highway in Alberta and B.C.
"There's discussion of possibly spanning the Trans-Canada Highway and the CP Rail in Banff National Park, and I know that the transportation engineer in charge of that project is very interested in the results of the ARC competition and how it might be applied to Banff," Clevenger said.
Designs were judged on cost-effectiveness, innovation and the creative use of existing landscape.
The cost of animal overpasses has tripled in last three years from about $2 million to $6 million a piece. It's estimated that the winning design would cost about half that on a per-unit basis.
"There's really a need to reassess how these structures are built, how they're constructed, how they're designed to see if these structures could be built for less," said Clevenger. "That's really what we believe, and that's the impetus for this competition."
Banff currently has 22 underpasses and two overpasses. Four new overpasses are in the works.
Animal and vehicle collisions cause about $250 million in damages each year in Canada.