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$45 million for wildlife crossings in Pima County

Published: Jul. 20, 2015 at 7:36 PM MST|Updated: Aug. 4, 2015 at 12:01 AM MST
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TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) - Pima County is spending millions of taxpayer dollars to cut down on the number of animals getting hit by cars.

When Tucson voters passed the Regional Transportation Authority in 2006, $45 million was approved for wildlife crossings. Now, in an era of tighter budgets, some of those expenditures are gaining more public scrutiny.

When the wildlife crossing for SR 77 near Catalina was proposed, it was estimated to be $8.2 million, but it ballooned to $11 million.

"I think it might be overkill for that," said Mary Broadbent, who lives in the area. "I thought it was for vehicles as sturdy as it is. I had no idea that was an overpass for animals."

County officials said it's not just about the animals' safety, however. The crashes also heavily damage cars and can lead to injuries to drivers and passengers.

Tangerine Road, which is slated for widening in 2016, is also considered one of the most important wildlife corridors in the state.

A 2010 study conducted by the Arizona Game and Fish, showed 5,132 animals were killed in a six mile stretch of the road during a five month period.

The roadway will be getting five box culverts from 6 to 8 feet high at a cost of $2.5 million.

Along Highway 86 near Kitt Peak, three underground corridors and two bridges are also being planned at a total cost of $7 million. Highway 86 is an important wildlife corridor that includes deer, elk and cougar as well as javelinas, coyote and jackrabbits.

On August 14, the RTA Wildlife Linkages Group will meet to discuss the projects and determine whether any changes need to be made.

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