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Improving Connectivity: Innovative Fiber-Reinforced Polymer Structures for Wildlife, Bicyclists, and/or Pedestrians

Project #: 4W7860
Start Date: 07/01/2019
End Date: 06/30/2021
Status: Completed

Ecologists and engineers are constantly exploring new methods and adapting existing techniques to improve mitigation measures that increase motorist safety and wildlife species conservation. Crossing structures, combined with fences, are some of the most highly effective mitigation measures that are employed around the world due to their ability to not only reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions (WVCs) with large animals and increase motorist safety, but they also provide an additional benefit that other measures don’t, they help maintain habitat connectivity across transportation networks for many types and sizes of wildlife. Published research on bridge designs and materials for wildlife crossings is limited and suggests relatively little innovation has occurred. Given wildlife crossing structures are a critical contribution to highway mitigation strategies for reducing WVCs while also providing for habitat connectivity, species movement and migrations, the need for new, resourceful, and innovative techniques is warranted. This research explores the promising application of fiber-reinforced polymers (FRPs) to wildlife crossing structures. If FRP structural designs can meet all bridge specifications set by transportation agencies and prove to have less expensive life cycles, they will provide a new approach that is more efficient, more quickly deployed, lasts longer, requires less maintenance and is ultimately more adaptable than traditional materials. This project explores what is know about FRP bridge structures and materials that can be adapted for use in crossing structures over highways for wildlife and, by extension, for bicyclists and pedestrians as well.


The research will identify cost-sensitive and environmentally friendly fiber-reinforced polymer (FRP) materials and systems suitable for bridge superstructure elements that can be used for both wildlife and bike/ped crossings.  The project will seek to develop a system whereby the foundation and the FRP superstructure is interchangeable with different treatments of decking that specifically addresses the needs of wildlife, bicyclists and/or pedestrians.

This research will reduce the impact of wildlife collisions in rural areas and improve motorist safety through the use of innovative FRP materials for the superstructure of the bridge. The modularity of FRP bridges will also make safer travel for bicyclists and pedestrians.