Lasers may reduce roadkill along Highway 95

A stretch of Highway 95 north of Moscow, nicknamed “Steakhouse Hill”, has been a trouble spot when it comes to vehicles and wildlife sharing the roadway. Now the Idaho Transportation Department is investing in a high-tech solution designed to keep drivers safe and reduce roadkill.

“This is a migration route, especially in the winter time,” said Joe Schacher, resident engineer for ITD.

Forget regular road signs, large animals like deer, elk and moose are forcing a more technical and innovative response from ITD.

“It’s actually new to the country, there aren’t a lot of them out there,” said Schacher.

Schacher is talking about ITD’s new $200,000 animal crossing warning system, one of handful being used in the country. It uses lasers to warn drivers that animals are crossing the road ahead. Transportation officials hope it will give drivers enough time to slow down and hopefully save lives.

“This area here is a high accident area for animals and vehicles,” Schacher said.

So how exactly does it work? Infrared laser beams create a virtual fence on either side of the highway. When a large enough object, like a moose, crosses the “fence”, lights on corresponding warning signs begin to flash.

Installation crews and the company that makes the warning system, have been working on the project for about four months now. They’ve been testing, tweaking and testing again to make sure everything is ready to go.

ITD officials say traditional animal crossing signs don’t last long on this section of roadway.

“We tried for awhile to put moose signs up and they seem to disappear quite rapidly,” said Schacher. “We switched back over to the deer signs, they don’t seem to be as popular.”

If the solar powered, laser beam warning signs do the job, ITD and those living nearby hope the traffic will slow down and more wildlife won’t end up dead along this particular stretch of Highway 95.