RIO HONDO — The Ocelot Underground is taking shape along FM 106.
The roadway between Rio Hondo and Buena Vista Road is in the midst of a $15.5 million overhaul over 11.4 miles.
One of the unique features of the construction project is the addition of concrete underpasses to allow the endangered Texas subspecies of ocelot to pass under the roadway instead of dodging through traffic.
Vehicle mortality is the No. 1 killer of the approximately 80 ocelots in South Texas. The good news is no ocelot highway fatality has been recorded since April.
The dozen massive concrete underpasses are different sizes, but are sufficiently wide and tall to accommodate deer, ocelots, bobcats, raccoons and more. Some are five feet-by-five feet, while others measure eight feet-by-eight feet.
The underpasses are different sizes depending on the distance they burrow under a highway. The longer the tunnel the bigger the entrances, which biologists say encourages animals to enter the tunnels since they can see light at the other end.
“Right now what they’re constructing is this fence, and it’s the wildlife fence,” said Sergio Sustaita, a TxDOT engineer. “The fence is going on top and this is what hopefully will force the wildlife underneath to protect them from the traveling public.”
The idea is the fencing will funnel ocelots and other animals into the underpasses and keep them off the road.
Cost — $15.6 million
Length — 11.4 miles
Area — From FM 1847 to FM 510
Work started — November 2015
Completion date — December 2017
Contractor — Texas SAI Inc.
Work done — 47 percent