Earth Day marks the start of construction of SoCal Wildlife Crossing – NBC Los Angeles

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Groundbreaking is scheduled for Friday at a wildlife crossing on one of the country’s busiest highways.

The Wildlife Bridge over the 101 Freeway northwest of Los Angeles is designed to provide more room to roam for cougars and other animals hemmed in by urban sprawl.

A ceremony marking the start of construction is scheduled for 10 a.m. on Earth Day.

The approximately $85 million Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing will span 210 feet
over 10 freeway and sidewalk lanes. It is also the first crossing of its kind to be funded significantly by private donations as well as public support.

This rendering shows the planned Highway 101 wildlife crossing near Los Angeles. Credit: National Wildlife Federation

The bridge will give mountain lions, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes and other creatures a safe route to open space in the Santa Monica Mountains and better access to food and potential mates, said the federation’s Beth Pratt. from wildlife.

The crossing is nothing new, but what makes it different is that it will pass through one of the busiest highways in the country. The bridge will be the first of its kind near a major metropolis and the largest in the world, spanning 200 feet over 10 freeway lanes and a feeder road just 35 miles north- west of downtown Los Angeles.

A render shows wildlife crossing the 101 Freeway near Los Angeles.

National Wildlife Federation

A render shows wildlife crossing the 101 Freeway near Los Angeles.

Construction will take place primarily at night and will not require lengthy Highway 101 closures, officials said. It should be completed in early 2025.

The $90 million prize will be covered by approximately 60% private donations, with the rest coming from public funds earmarked for conservation purposes. The span will be named Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, for the philanthropist whose foundation donated $25 million.

This render depicts wildlife crossing the 101 Freeway near Los Angeles.

National Wildlife Federation

This render depicts wildlife crossing the 101 Freeway near Los Angeles.

The star of the fundraising campaign was the Puma P-22. Famous for crossing two freeways and taking up residence in a sprawling Los Angeles park, the big cat has become a symbol of dwindling genetic diversity in wild animals that must remain trapped in sprawling development or risk becoming kills. the road.

Unfortunately, the start of construction comes a day after a young mountain lion was hit and killed by a vehicle on the 405 freeway in Brentwood.

“This week was meant to be a celebration as we mark the grand opening of a wildlife bridge in Agoura Hills. Instead, we are saddened by the violent death of another mountain lion,” said JP Rose, senior counsel at the Center for Biological Diversity. “These tragedies can be avoided if California invests in more wildlife crossings, which protect both wildlife and people from dangerous collisions. wildlife protection, a common sense bill that will bring more wildlife crossings to the state.”

Thursday’s mountain lion death in the Brentwood area was the second in less than a month. Another lion was killed by a vehicle on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu on March 23.

Scientists who track cougars fitted with GPS collars have found over the decades that the roads largely confine the animals to the mountains that run along the Malibu coast and through central Los Angeles to Griffith Park, where P- 22 settled down.

Despite being the face of the project, P-22 is unlikely to use the bridge as it is confined to the park several miles away. But many of those close to him could benefit, Pratt said.

Some 300,000 cars travel this stretch of the 101 every day in Agoura Hills, a small town surrounded by a patchwork of protected wilderness that the new overpass will connect.

Drivers in the Liberty Canyon area will speed under the 165-foot (50-meter) wide bridge with brush and trees growing on top, seamlessly joining the hillsides on both sides of the lanes.

The architects designed the topography to be indistinguishable from the landscape on either side. Berms and dips with high edges will block sound and light from the lanes below.

Wildlife crossings – bridges and tunnels – are common in Western Europe and Canada. A famous one in Alberta’s Banff National Park spans the Trans-Canada Highway and is frequently used by bears, moose and elk.

The Los Angeles-area bridge received near-universal support, unusual for a public works project. The draft environmental impact document received nearly 9,000 comments – with only 15 objections, according to the wildlife federation.

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