An emerging critical priority for both transportation and natural resource agencies is to make North American highways safer for both drivers and wildlife. The fact that wildlife-vehicle collisions have doubled in the past fifteen years has concentrated transportation agencies’ attention on engineering solutions that prevent wildlife-vehicle collisions on the continent’s roadways. At the same time, roads have been acknowledged as a major obstacle to landscape connectivity and ecological vitality—a matter of growing concern as climate change, in the form of rising temperatures and hydrological shifts, portends increasing wildlife migrations. In this context, the continents’ road systems pose a significant threat to the long-term health and viability of North American wildlife populations. The four inter-related objectives for this competition are to:
- Provide an avenue for international teams of design professionals to address new design challenges in the coalescent issues of road transportation safety, structural engineering, wildlife conservation and landscape ecology;
- Explore creative new approaches, materials, and designs that address the fundamentals of transportation engineering and ecology;
- Increase the number of potential solutions for cost efficient, innovative crossing designs that can be adapted for widespread use in other locations; and,
- Engage design professionals and students in the interdisciplinary nature of road ecology with a real-time, in-situ application.
But ARC is more than a competition; it is an ideology that spans disciplines, species, geography and aspirations. Our name and visual identity has emerged directly from the science of road ecology. We worked with Studio:Blackwell, Chris Harrison, a PhD candidate at the Human-Computer Interaction Institute at Carnegie Mellon University, and Dr. Tony Clevenger of the Western Transportation Institute to produce a graphic arc diagram which is a visualization of actual wildlife crossing data. These data–and the information on which the arc diagram is based—were collected over a year at the 24 wildlife crossing structures in Banff National Park in Alberta, Canada. It tracks the daily use of the crossing structures by large mammals whose adaptation to this infrastructure successfully reconnects the surrounding landscape and creates safer highways every day.
Initiated by the Western Transportation Institute at Montana State University and the Woodcock Foundation in New York City, ARC quickly drew additional support from the Edmonton Community Foundation, the Federal Highway Administration and the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials. It continues to draw mounting support from federal and state agencies, universities, professional associations and non-profit organizations in the U.S. and Canada.