Transportation Engineering is one of the smaller known types of engineering but in fact it affects anyone who has a vehicle and moves form point a to point be. The actual definition of this is the movement of passengers and goods form one place to another with that comes the implication that humans are in control of these areas. Humans have a huge effect on the surrounding environment whether that be with buildings, water purification, running pipes, just waste in general and of course roads and vehicles traveling on those roads.
At firs glance transportation engineering doesn’t seem to have that big and effect on the environment but there are many ways that roads and their building affects the environment among those the obvious road kill for animals crossing the road, pollution, and populations shifts. Although attempts have been made to try to diminish the impact humans have while paving roads the consequences are undeniable. And with populations growing every day and year we will only see this problems become bigger and bigger unless drastic measures are taken to at least diminish the effects we have.
Firstly to tackle the road kill problem, animals being dumb is not a reason for which this happens in fact most of the deaths for roadkill are caused by the animals nature to respond to threats. For example if a turtle sees a car coming towards it, the turtle will see the car as a predator and will hide inside its shell and while this can be effective for normal predators a car will obviously not be stopped by this maneuver.
Now when considering road kill we don’t only look at animals like turtles we also see the animals that have a very large are of nature such as panthers and red foxes these animals are more likely to encounter a road due to how far they travel daily. This is part of the habitat fragmentation problem as well since some animals are indeed smart enough not to cross the road and are segregated from one side of their habitat.
Following up about segregation animals such as snakes will come near a road and just turn around which affects the balance of prey to predators. For example if there are a lot of prey on one side of the road and most predators are stuck on the other side of the road which causes and overcrowding problem. Another example are birds since they go from tree to tree in order to rest between flights and some birds have been shown to not want to fly very large distances if there is no rest spot between which depending on the size of the road can be a very big problem. These examples have just been about specific animals but a huge segregation problem is that the road might divide a section of nature with and without water access. This can lead to many unlucky animals to perish due to their inability to access a reliable water source.
Humans cause pollution that is an undeniable fact, cities themselves are huge pollution plants so animals have been pushed out of most of the areas inhabited by people. A forest for example is largely pollution free except for when a road is paved through it. Now there are thousands if not hundred of thousands of cars passing thorough the forest with gas powered engines that produce waste causing many trees and near by animals to be directly affected. As an example vehicles produce waste oil that falls on asphalt and with the help of water and wind these residue substances get into the water streams polluting the drinking water of many animals. Frogs that live near roads have been seen to have more deformities than those that live away from the roads. Pollution not only includes the effect of waste as we commonly know it, lights and noise can also be a problem as they may affect the animals sleep patters. An example of this is how some birds sing when light is present and a car can confuse them into believing it is day when it is actually night time. Another example is for some animals that rely on light to navigate such as turtles and they end up running into cars instead of ponds or lakes or seas.
Now it is not all bad there have been small measures to help lower human impact on the environment. Among these we have the construction of alternate paths for animals, road closure during breeding season for animals and lowering speed limit for. Now the alternate paths need to be constructed because like we mentioned before some animals will refuse to cross asphalt roads or the noise and light will either kill or pus them away. By building tunnels under roads we can effectively help the animals to cross safely therefore reducing the roadkill aspect. Road closers basically are used to protect animals in their breeding season and allows the animals to be able to get through their reproductive process in peace and without human and vehicle disruptions. And lastly lowering the speed limit through these areas helps both drivers and animals to have more time to react and allows more opportunity for there to be less deaths.
Some people would say that these things don’t matter very much but if we look at the big picture and see that we build more roads every year and as of now we are seeing these effects on the environment specifically wildlife then in 100 years if nothing is done many of the animals we see today might be extinct. As of now we do have some things we are doing but it is not enough as none of the things I mentioned had any effect on the pollution side of vehicles. This could possibly be reduced by better car engines or just not paving roads through forested areas. Although this is out of the scope of transportation engineering as far as car engine efficiencies it is within the scope of planning out where a road is built and considering the tunnels to allow the crossing of animals and the speed limit that the engineer chooses should also accommodate for the reaction time of humans in a dark space in order to have time to stop and prevent deaths. With these changes we can help reduce the effect on the wildlife and the environment in general and hopefully in the future we find a better way to not affect the environment as much as we do.