U.S. Highway 550 Wildlife Crossing Project
Phase 1 and Phase 2

Control Number 9901210


The U.S. 550 Wildlife Crossings Project is a continuation of on-going efforts and commitment to reduce Wildlife Vehicle Collisions (WVC) and enhance habitat connectivity in New Mexico. Previous legislative efforts prioritized funding and actions to reduce WVCs and include a statewide study to identify and quantify WVC hotspots. Governor Michelle Lujan Grisham signed into law the New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Act (Senate Bill 228) in 2019 which mandated the New Mexico Department of Transportation (NMDOT) and New Mexico Department of Game and Fish (NMDGF) to develop a Wildlife Corridors Action Plan (Action Plan). The Action Plan identified and prioritized important areas for wildlife movement and developed a list of priority projects for building wildlife crossing structures to better connect habitats, facilitate safe animal movement across major highways, and protect the traveling public from collisions with wildlife. Development of the Action Plan commenced in 2019 as a cooperative effort led by the NMDOT and NMDGF and involved collaboration with other research and resource management entities including, but not limited to the U.S. Forest Service, University of New Mexico, New Mexico State University, Jicarilla Apache Nation, Mescalero Apache Tribe, and Navajo Nation. The Action Plan was completed in June of 2022.

The Action Plan identified U.S. Highway 550 north of Cuba as the highest priority WVC hotspot in New Mexico. Conceptual strategies were developed for addressing this area. The overall purpose of the current project, the U.S. 550 Wildlife Crossing Project, is to reduce WVCs and enhance wildlife habitat connectivity primarily for elk (Cervus canadensis) and mule deer (Odocoileus hemionus) in northwestern New Mexico.

Where are we in the Project?

The U.S. 550 Wildlife Crossing Project has been broken up into four phases covering a 16-mile segment of U.S. 550.  The NMDOT completed an Engineering Scoping Report in July 2023 that provides proposed construction phasing and cost estimates and identifies potential engineering, environmental, and construction issues.  Currently, the NMDOT is developing design plans for Phases 1 and 2.

US 550 Vicinity Map

Figure 1. U.S. 550 Highway Project Location within New Mexico.

How did we get here?

Visit the NMDOT Wildlife Corridors Action Program Website to learn more about the approach taken to develop the Action Plan and the top WVC hotspots identified in New Mexico.




District 6

STIP Number


Study and Design


James Hirsch
NMDOT Wildlife Coordinator


U.S. 550 MP 64.93 to MP 80.64 Wildlife Vehicle Collision (WVC) Mitigation Scoping Report

Scoping Report, NMDOT July 2023

Determining Effectiveness of Wildlife-Vehicle Collision Mitigation Projects: Phase I

Final Report, NMDOT February 2021

New Mexico Wildlife Corridors Action Plan

Final Report, NMDOT June 2022


Phase 1 would involve the construction of an overpass at milepost (MP) 65.97, an underpass at MP 67.55, and 8-foot tall woven wire game fencing between MP 65.1 and MP 69.14.  The game fence would prevent mule deer and elk from entering the roadway, and the wildlife overpasses and underpasses would provide an opportunity for safe wildlife passage.


Phase 2 would include the construction of a second overpass at MP 70.28, a second underpass at MP 71.81, and 8-foot tall woven wire game fencing between MP 69.14 and MP 72.98.


The planning and design of Phases 1 and 2 started in early 2023 and the final design plans should be complete by the end of December 2024. The construction of Phase 1 is expected to begin in 2025.

US 550 Project Area

Figure 2. US 550 Wildlife Corridors Project with Phases



Rendering of US 550 Overpass

Single-span overpass structures would be constructed to bridge the existing four travel lanes and shoulders of US 550 with a 17-foot tall vertical clearance and 150-foot width. Overpasses and their approach areas would be planted with vegetation that matches the natural habitat adjacent to the highway.


Rendering of US 550 Overpass

Underpass structures would be constructed using precast arch structures that are 54 feet wide and 11 feet tall. Arches would be placed on stem walls to create additional height to enhance openness, which is conducive to elk use. Fill slopes would be constructed to match the adjacent terrain. Approaches to the underpass would be planted with vegetation to match the adjacent natural habitat. To maintain existing drainage flows, improvements would be made as part of underpass construction.


Eight-foot tall game fencing would be constructed along both sides of the U.S. 550 right-of-way and about one-half mile of NM 96 where it intersects with US 550 (near MP 68.1). Right-of-way fencing would also include escape ramps (jump-outs) to enable animals to exit if they are inadvertently trapped within the highway right-of-way.


Game-guards would be placed at intersecting driveways and roads to facilitate vehicle movement while restricting animal access.