News & Media

Wildlife Safety near Superhighways is Focus of Unique International Design Competition

January 10, 2011

Can migrating wildlife such as cougars and elk coexist with North America’s high-speed superhighways? Canadians will have special interest when an answer to that question is presented in Washington, D.C., on January 23rd as the winner is announced in the first-ever competition of its kind titled ARC: The International Wildlife Crossing Structure Design Competition.

The goal of this unique challenge — issued to landscape architects, transportation and structural engineers and ecologists worldwide — is to solve a worsening dilemma on roadways everywhere: dangerous collisions between wildlife and vehicles. Its creators and sponsors chose a site with real and serious problems of animal movement along the heavily-travelled West Vail Pass on busy Interstate Highway 70 near the ski centre of Vail, Colorado.

I-70 bisects a critical habitat of a thick mountain forest heavily populated with wide-ranging species including black bears, cougars, bobcats and lynx, coyote, elk, deer and marten. In five spectacular designs, landscape architects have created large, landscaped convex arcs which appear as a habitat continuous with the surrounding forest and promise to allow the wildlife species to move safely over I-70. The five designs can be viewed by the public at the competition’s website —

While this competition focuses on the West Vail Pass, the applications elsewhere are clear, as is the inspiration. Canada has long dealt with the problem of wildlife/vehicle collisions and the system of crossings near Banff, Alberta is viewed as among the world’s best and most successful. There are now 41 crossing structures along 75 km of highways including six overpasses. Alberta wildlife ecologist and research scientist Tony Clevenger, who is one of the world-renowned jurors for the competition, says ARC is intended to inspire imitation worldwide. “Banff is the world leader in wildlife crossings but they’re in a static mould and the price of the structures keeps going up and up. The ideas brought forward in this competition are making us think about how to build these structures in new ways.”

In the U.S., the always-dangerous crashes between wildlife and motor vehicles have grown by 50 per cent in the last 15 years, according to the Federal Highway Administration, with estimates as high as two million collisions annually and a staggering cost both financially and to human health and safety. Canada is also seriously challenged by the problem. Crossings for wildlife have also been created throughout Europe and in Asia and Australia. It is expected the winning design of the ARC competition will inspire other structures as well as revolutionize and popularize the notion of crossing structures given the exacting criteria which include cost-effectiveness, ecological sensitivity, sustainability and high standards of human and animal safety.

Among the five finalists, who will each be awarded $15,000 for the excellence of their designs, are the teams lead by Toronto Landscape Architecture firm, Janet Rosenberg & Associates and the team headed by HNTB Engineering with Michael Van Valkenburgh & Associates of New York. Both Rosenberg and Van Valkenburgh are engaged in the revitalization of Toronto’s waterfront. The first prize design team will be awarded $40,000.

The ARC competition has already inspired those concerned with wildlife and with transportation to look for a better future for both migrating wildlife and for the travelling public whose roadways compromise habitat and are exposed to dangerous collisions. Parks Canada has expressed interest in the five finalists submissions to help in the design of new wildlife crossings over key sections along the Trans-Canada Highway through the Canadian Rockies. The competition attracted entries from 36 teams drawing on the expertise of 100 professional firms spanning nine countries world-wide.

A presentation by the five finalists and the selection of the winner will held from 1:30 p.m. to 4:30 pm on Sun. Jan. 23 during a special workshop as part of the Transportation Research Board’s 90th Annual Meeting which attracts more than 12000 transportation specialists from around the world. The event is held in the Cordozo Room of the Washington Hilton near Dupont Circle, 1919 Connecticut Avenue, Washington, DC.

FACT SHEET ON ARC COMPETITION (See for complete lists, background materials, photos)

Competition is backed by more than 25 major organizations in the US and Canada providing a wide range of services including leadership, funding, research, and public endorsement. Organizations include the Woodcock Foundation; Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University; Edmonton Community Foundation; US Dept of Transportation; US Forestry Service; US. Dept of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs; Western Environmental Law Centre; Y to Y (Yellowstone to Yukon); Canadian Pacific; Parks Canada; and the Western Governors’ Wildlife Council, to name only a few.

Five Finalists teams are led by the following firms. Complete list of team members and illustrated versions of their submissions are on the ARC Competition website.

  • Balmori Associates, New York 
  • The Olin Studio, Philadelphia 
  • Janet Rosenberg & Associates, Toronto 
  • HNTB Engineering with Michael Van Valkenburgh and Associates, New York 
  • Zwarts & Jansma Architects, Amsterdam

Members of the Jury are:

Charles Waldheim (Jury Chair), John E. Irving Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture, Harvard University, Graduate School of Design.

Tony Clevenger, Senior Research Scientist, Western Transportation Institute, Montana State University and Principal Researcher effects of roads on wildlife in the Canadian Rockies including Banff National Park.

Jane Wernick, Structural Engineer and Director of Jane Wernick Associates, London. Well-known throughout the US, Britain and Europe and taught at architectural schools including Harvard.

William L. Withuhn, Curator Emeritus of the History of Technology and Transportation, Smithsonian Institution.

Jane Wolff, Associate Professor and Chair of Landscape Architecture, John H. Daniels Faculty of Landscape, Architecture and Design, University of Toronto.

Professional Advisor to ARC International Design Competition:
Nina-Marie Lister is Visiting Associate Professor at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Design and Associate Professor in the School of Urban + Regional Planning at Ryerson

Special Design Requirements of site location on interstate I-70:
Highest elevation along I-70 in American Rockies • steep grades • heavy snow loads • severe weather • construction during busy recreational and commercial traffic on six-lane highway • light rail line • bike trail • multiple large and smaller animal species • highest number of recorded animal crossings in the area •native vegetative cover.