LA PLATA COUNTY, Colo.  (CBS4) – The Colorado Department of Transportation has begun a project to help wildlife safely cross a highway in the southern part of the state.

U.S. 160 at Dry Creek, between Durango and Bayfield, roughly five miles east of its junction with SH 172, is receiving a wildlife corridor.

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Between 9,200 and 9,600 vehicles travel this stretch of U.S. 160 each day,” CDOT Program Engineer Ed Archuleta said.

According to crash data, 58 percent of collisions at the location are with wildlife. In 2013, La Plata County topped the list for the highest number of wildlife-vehicle crashes in the state, with 252 incidents.

It is hoped the underpass will help prevent such accidents.

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“We know where the migration corridors are and we work closely with CDOT to design mitigation features where they will be the most effective,” said Matt Robbins from Colorado Parks and Wildlife.

Expected to be completed in May 2016, the $6.5 million project will stretch 37 feet long and 13 feet high. Ten foot shoulders will also be added to the single lanes in each direction of travel.

It is the first of 24 large-mammal crossings suggested for U.S. 160 between Durango and Bayfield. Small mammal crossings are recommended every 1000 feet.

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CDOT said impacts to travel will remain minimal throughout the project.