Ecological Infrastructure: A Framework for Planning and Design: "Addressing Landscape Connectivity and Wildlife Resources for Interstate Highway Systems"

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Virginia Tech

For the last century, automobiles and the roads they require have been a dominant force shaping the modern American landscape. An unrivaled interstate highway system connects major metropolitan areas and is the basis of our transportation infrastructure. Unfortunately, many roadways were not planned or designed with wildlife in mind. As long linear features in the landscape, interstates can function as landscape barriers and cause significant impacts to adjacent wildlife populations. While an aggressive transportation system is being carried out, researchers have only marginally demonstrated the relationships between roadways and wildlife. In such cases, twinned interstate roadways have proven to be the greatest obstacle for wildlife resources.

By incorporating ecological design theory into highway planning and design, the transportation community has an opportunity to reassess the short comings of existing highway infrastructure and improve functions of wildlife passage and landscape connectivity. Through system level approaches and analysis applied within an eco-region context, practical solutions can be developed. The following document provides a process for landscape level analysis, wildlife passage structure design and implementation for future planned interstates projects. As a collaborative effort among professionals, we can work towards improving interstate highway systems and retain the relationships occurring within the landscape.

The following I-81 design and planning project offers an exceptional opportunity to reassess the inadequacies of the existing interstate infrastructure in terms of landscape connectivity, wildlife resources and public safety, and demonstrate how system level design approaches can give our roadways new shape and form.

Habitat Convergence, Ecological Infrastructure, Wildlife Crossing, Wildlife Passage Structure, Landscape Connectivity