BISMARCK, N.D. — State officials say preliminary work has begun on a unique wildlife crossing between two cities in the oil patch of North Dakota.

The underpass is designed to allow wildlife will go under a bridge on U.S. Highway 85 between Watford City and Williston. It's part of a $300 million upgrade on a road that has seen increased traffic with the oil boom.

Wildlife officials say the area is a natural corridor for movement of big game animals like moose and white-tailed deer, as well as predators like mountain lions, coyotes and other animals.

North Dakota Game and Fish Department spokesman Bruce Kreft said that officials took several trips to Montana to study designs of wildlife crossings.

Construction is expected to begin this spring.

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