AGOURA HILLS, Calif. - Mountain lions, bobcats and other wildlife would be less likely to become roadkill if the state adopted a plan to build a bridge over the 101 Freeway in Agoura Hills, supporters of the proposal said in remarks reported today.
State agencies, elected officials and wildlife advocates urged the state to provide the much-needed link in an area where rampant development and highways have fragmented once-continuous habitat. The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long overpass near Liberty Canyon Road would connect the Santa Monica Mountains on the south with the Simi Hills and Santa Susana Mountains, the Los Angeles Times reported.
Large carnivores in particular have found the 101 to be a formidable barrier. Since National Park Service biologists began researching mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains in 2002, motorists have struck and killed a dozen of the big cats, The Times reported.
Urbanization has taken a toll on Southern California's mountain lion population, spurring battles over shrinking territory and a depletion of genetic diversity because of inbreeding.
Building the nation's largest wildlife overpass would be ambitious, said Seth Riley, a wildlife ecologist with the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, a unit of the National Park Service, according to The Times.
At the proposed site, the highway has 10 lanes of pavement, including exit lanes.
Scientists have long ago identified Liberty Canyon as the optimal location to build a wildlife passage because of the large swaths of protected public land on either side of the freeway, according to The Times.
On Wednesday, the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority released a long-awaited study by Caltrans concluding that a wildlife overpass was feasible, the newspaper reported. The projected cost would be $33 million
to $38 million, according to the report. Proponents said they plan to seek most of the money from public coffers.
The California Department of Transportation completed the project study with a $200,000 grant from the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy. Elected officials expressed enthusiastic support for the project, according to The Times.