The much-anticipated and first-ever wildlife overcrossing in California is in works, with fundraising and raising awareness taking top priorities in this initial phase of the project that will create a span over 101 freeway near Liberty Canyon in the city of Agoura Hills and will benefit mountain lions, bobcats, coyotes, foxes, lizards and more. It’s being called the biggest wildlife bridge to be built.
Here’s a brief overview on the project with key points:
What is the overcrossing – and why?
Connecting the Santa Monica Mountains to the Sierra Madre Mountains, the overcrossing will help avoid freeway roadkill, but more importantly, will allow animals that are “landlocked” by development to move into other open wilderness areas. Local biologists say large predators like mountain lions need vast individual territories and more mating options to keep their gene pool healthy.
What will the overcrossing look like and where will it be built?
At one time, a tunnel was being considered, but currently two possible alternatives are being considered:
One plan includes a 165-foot wide x 200-foot long bridge across the freeway just west of Liberty Canyon Road. Noise barriers and vegetation would shield noise and light from freeway and surrounding development, blending the overcrossing into the existing landscape. A hiking trail is also being evaluated.
Another plan is similar but includes an extension of the bridge over Agoura Road, which is south of the 101 freeway. (Old Agoura Homeowners Association supports this plan; it also may mitigate animals from being killed as they cross Agoura Road). Nearby retaining walls would need to be constructed.
What are the phases/timeline for this project?
Phase One: Environmental studies and assessments
October 2015-Summer 2017
Phase Two: Finalizing design plans, construction bids, acquire property, permits
Summer 2017- Spring 2019
Phase Three: Construction
Spring 2019 – November 2021
Party Phase: Project finished
How much will the bridge cost?
Price tags vary $30-$55 million
How much money has been collected so far? Where is it coming from?
So far, about $1.1 million has been collected which includes about $100,000 donations from the public (Want to contribute? Click here). Public and private partners have teamed up to fund various phases of the project. The project will also draw upon existing public funds that have been earmarked for conservation.
(For a list of current partners, click here.)
Will the freeway be closed during construction?
No. It will be business as usual along the 101 during the two and half year construction process.
For more detailed information, visit the Department of Transportation webpage or the National Wildlife Federation’s FAQ sheet.
— Brenda Rees, Editor