WENDOVER, Nevada — Construction crews have almost completed a set of tunnels on I-80 near Wendover that will ensure more safety for motorists and wildlife.
The unusual highway project was started in 2012 and consists of building a set of highway tunnels through a mountain that doesn't exist. Each tunnel on the eastbound lane and westbound lane of the highway is 200 feet long.
"Eventually it will be just like a land bridge," said Nevada Department of Transportation representative Michael Murphy. "It's been a popular subject of late, wondering when it was going to get done."
The area is a popular migration path for thousands of mule deer each fall, and officials said the land bridge would ensure more safety for drivers by keeping the deer off the roads.
During the next several weeks, contractors for the Nevada Department of Transportation will cover the tunnels with tons of dirt, and will fence in the land bridge along the sides. Officials said the project will be completed just in time for migration season.
"As the deer walks across, he won't be able to see the traffic and unless he's near the edge, the traffic won't be able to see him," Murphy said.
Many states including Utah are building similar bypasses for deer. However, most states are building the deer paths under the highway. Officials said the wildlife overpass is more expensive, costing $2.75 million, but they say the land bridge is worth the cost to reduce the number of car accidents caused by deer.
"Each one of those accidents, we know from national statistics, costs over $3,000 a hit," Murphy said.
Nevada officials reported that studies on similar projects have also shown that deer prefer to walk over the highways instead of under them.
150 people are killed in deer-related crashes each year, according to national statistics.