ROAD CONSTRUCTION: Ga. to build bear tunnels along S.R. 96

Project will cost over $60 million, but funds are not secured yet

December 31, 2012

It’s time to help a bear cross a street—at least along Georgia’s State Route 96.

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) announced a series of tunnels would be constructed along the corridor to help protect the grizzly animals as they roam what is left of their natural habitat. A first of its kind for Georgia, the project will cost a little over $60 million but the funding has not been secured as of yet.

Bears live in three primary regions in the state: the north Georgia mountains, the Okefenokee Swamp near the Georgia-Florida state line and along the Ocmulgee River in central Georgia.

Along S.R. 96, bears often scour along the river in the Ocmulgee and Oaky Woods wildlife management areas. The tunnels will be constructed where bears are active close to the highway, usually where there is water or some type of wetland.

GDOT project manager Jeremy Busby said the agency has acquired the necessary land to build the tunnels, and plans include widening S.R. 96 to accommodate the safer wildlife crossings. Fences also will be installed in an attempt to funnel the bears through the tunnels, and cameras also will be placed to monitor animal movement.