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CA to Build World’s Largest Wildlife Crossing

Monday, August 26, 2019

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The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) has recently entered its final design stage for an $8.7 million animal overpass, slated to cross the Los Angeles 101 Freeway.

The wildlife crossing, dubbed the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, will connect various parts of the Santa Monica Mountains, creating a safe passage for local native species.

About the Project

Originally inspired by Southern California’s native wildlife—particularly mountain lions, as they’ve seen genetic diversity shrinkage having been confined to smaller habitats surrounded by freeways and developments—the National Wildlife Federation, partnering with the Santa Monica Mountains Fund and a large community of supporters, created the #SaveLACougars campaign to raise funds for a wildlife crossing.

As published in Ecological Applications in March, a study by the University of California, Los Angeles; University of California, Davis; and the National Park Service also shows that the limited geographic range in which the bridge plans to be built, currently poses extinction risks to mountain lions, which is estimated to occur within the next 50 years.

“When the freeway went in, it cut off an ecosystem,” said Beth Pratt, director of the National Wildlife Federation’s California branch. “We’re just now seeing impacts of that.”

According to the campaign’s webpage, in 2015 a $250,000 project study report was funded by the Mountains Recreation & Conservation Authority. Three years after the study, a $1.5 million environmental assessment followed.

Of the $8.7 million funds needed, the project has reportedly received $4.8 million to date. The entire project however, all phases included, has raised $13.4 million from 2,005 donors. The campaign hopes to raise $60 million in funds by 2020 for the construction of the bridge.

In fact, Pratt reports that 80% of the wildlife crossing project is funded by private sources, with the remaining 20% coming from public funds allocated towards conservation campaigns. Reported to also oversee fundraising for the project, Pratt is using P-22—described as “the Brad Pitt of the cougar world”—as the poster cat for the crusade.

In an effort to gain more funding for the project, officials are considering offering naming rights to the bridge, should any entity or individual provides a significant donation.

According to Rob Ament, a road ecology program manager at Montana State University’s Western Transportation Institute, under- and overpasses can reduce mortality rates and monetary costs associated with wildlife-vehicle collisions by 85-95%.

What’s Happening Now

Now, officials are still working on the third phase of the project—final designs and engineering.

Thus far, proposed designs for the project reveal a 165-foot-wide by 200-foot-long bridge, slated to be constructed at Freeway 101’s 33-mile marker. The bridge will stretch over 10 lanes of traffic, which reportedly see some 300,000 cars a day, and include an extension over nearby Agoura Road.

“The science tells us this is the better design,” said Pratt. “Some animals will use tunnels, some will not. We looked at the best solution for all wildlife so all creatures can use this.”

Covered in sound- and light-blocking barriers—made of high-edged berms and hollows—architect Clark Stevens hopes the topography on the infrastructure will be indistinguishable from the surrounding scenery. His design plans to cover eight acres of landscape with the bridge making up just one of them.

Stevens, who also works for the Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, is reported to be working with various engineers and biologists on the design.

“Ideally the animals will never know they’re on a bridge,” said Stevens. “It’s landscape flowing over a freeway. It’s putting back a piece of the ecosystem that was lost.”

Aiming to ultimately provide better access to food and potential mates for big cats, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other native creatures, the project is expected to break ground within two years and be completed by 2023, according to engineer Sheik Moinuddin, project manager with Caltrans.

The unique infrastructure is estimated to be the biggest in the world of its kind.


Tagged categories: Asia Pacific; Bridges; Bridges; Caltrans; Department of Transportation (DOT); EMEA (Europe, Middle East and Africa); Engineers; Funding; Infrastructure; Latin America; National Park Service; North America; Ongoing projects; Program/Project Management; Project Management; Z-Continents

Comment from Michael Beitzel, (8/26/2019, 10:19 AM)

I would be curious to see a video showing animals finding and using this structure

Comment from Michael Halliwell, (8/26/2019, 11:18 AM)

It's not an uncommon occurrence....Banff National Park here has a couple. One video is this:

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