The long-awaited Liberty Canyon wildlife crossing over the 101 freeway is underway. The formal groundbreaking took place in April, work crews started in July and work is on schedule, Caltrans said.
When completed, the overcrossing will provide a bridge over the freeway for wildlife to use to avoid near certain death when trying to cross the freeway. It is also expected to help prevent inbreeding among cougars and other wildlife. Currently, the freeway creates a pocket for wildlife which they have great difficulty leaving. Lack of genetic diversity eventually leads to infertility and local extinction.
Caltrans spokesman Michael Comeaux said the multi-year project will be completed in two phases. “Construction is on schedule,” he said, adding “Caltrans is proud of our role in planning, designing and constructing this important project.”
Formally known and the Wallis Annenberg Wildilife Crossing. The project is in Agoura Hills at Liberty Canyon Road. Annenberg has been instrumental in raising some of the approximately $70 million needed to fund the project. It is a public/private venture in which Caltrans has a leading role. SaveLACougars.org has been a leading fundraiser.
Comeaux said “The wildlife crossing is expected to reduce the likelihood of wildlife-vehicle collisions on U.S. Highway 101, which also is known as the Ventura Freeway. The crossing also will have a crucial role in reconnecting wildlife habitat.” The National Park Service (NPS) has been studying mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains for 20 years. Of approximately 100 lions under study at least 17 have died in traffic collisions. Seven have died on the 101. A female was killed on the freeway the day before the 20th anniversary of the start of the study.
Comeaux said stage 1 is expected to be complete in Fall 2024 and “includes only the vegetated bridge structure over U.S. Highway 101 and supporting roadway items within Caltrans right of way. ” Construction began in July.
He said stage two includes a tunnel/bridge over Agoura Road, which is a street parallel to US Highway 101, and fill, grade and landscape between the bridge over US-101 and the bridge over Agoura Road.
The timetable for stage 2 is being developed. ” We anticipate State 2 will be completed in 2025, ” he added.
Liberty Canyon is by far the biggest overcrossing in California, and perhaps the world, but it is not the only one. Caltrans and conservation partners are working on many other wildlife related projects. Other nations are looking to Liberty Canyon as a model for conservation. efforts around the world.