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Wildlife corridor near Cuba is going high-tech

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — $3.5M PROJECT TO KEEP DRIVERS, WILDLIFE SAFE: Rodger Beimer emails that “on a recent trip to the Farmington area, traveling on U.S. 550, spotted are big tall fences on both sides of the highway (near) Cuba with ‘wildlife crossing’ warnings and flashing lights.”

And so, he asks, “who paid for the fence? Are the lights activated by motion sensors? What’s the story? Attempt to alleviate deer/elk/animal ‘strike’ zones?”

Delane D. Baros, quality manager and public information officer for the New Mexico Department of Transportation-District 6, has said story. Answers amount to you, yes and yes.

“This is a federally funded project located in Sandoval County, south of Cuba,” Baros says. This project replaces the right-of-way fence with a game fence and cattle guards with game guards. In addition, an animal pathway will be built under Bridge No. 9137, and electrified barriers and a game detection system will be installed.

“The NMDOT implemented wildlife/vehicle collision mitigation projects to warn motorists of medium-to-large animals that are within this particular stretch of roadway and its right-of-way. The system contains a number of thermal detection cameras, signs that illuminate warning signals when animals are detected and an analytics system. The analytics system controls the illumination of warning lights, allows for the remote download of data and monitors system battery levels and performance. In addition, a research project is being done that will determine the effectiveness of these mitigations.

“All physical work on the project was completed at the end of July at a cost of $3,594,479.14.”

NOT DONE WITH THE NO-RIGHT-TURN ON CENTRAL: Dennis Angellis emails, “I just read your (Aug. 19 column) about people taking right-hand turns on red at the Central/Lomas intersection, and (city spokesman) Johnny Chandler’s comments and photo. My wife and I have been through that intersection about two times a month since it was completed and have never noticed that no-right-on-red sign until we saw that photo – and had to scan the photo to find it.

“I’ll bet I’ve taken a right on red there,” he continues. “Drivers are likely focusing on the lights high across Lomas and missing the sign. From our experience, that sign is inadequate. There should be a sign on approach to the cut out to go right onto Central, preferably a colored sign like yellow or orange or maybe red letters to get people’s attention. Check it out yourself, that little white sign all the way across the intersection is not obvious.”

City crews did just that. And Chandler reports, “The DMD traffic engineering team took another look on this stretch of Central to see if there can be an additional ‘no-turn-on-red’ sign installed. The good news is yes, we can and will install another ‘no-turn-on-red’ sign by the end of September. We believe this will allow motorists better education when taking that right-hand turn to continue onto Central. We also hope that motorists will better follow the traffic laws at this intersection.”

ROADBLOCKS ARE IN (HUNTING) SEASON: The New Mexico Department of Game and Fish recently announced in a news release it “will be conducting roadblocks throughout the state during fall hunting seasons to collect harvest data and to detect wildlife law violations.”

Assisting conservation officers may be folks from the U.S. Forest Service, Bureau of Land Management, New Mexico State Police and county sheriff’s offices. Motorists are advised “the public may encounter minor delays.”

Officials will also check for compliance with the Off-Highway Motor Vehicle Act and for the documentation required by the Forest Conservation Act to haul wood products.

Game and Fish is asking the public to report wildlife-law violations – shooting from a vehicle, spotlighting or driving off-road – by contacting an area office in Santa Fe, Albuquerque, Raton, Roswell or Las Cruces, calling the toll-free Operation Game Thief hot line at 800-432-GAME (4263), or reporting online at Operation Game Thief. (Callers can remain anonymous and earn rewards for information leading to charges being filed.)

Editorial page editor D’Val Westphal tackles commuter issues for the Metro area on Mondays. Reach her at 823-3858; dwestphal@abqjournal.com; or 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, N.M., 87109.

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