New Funding Aims to Protect Wildlife with Highway Crossings Throughout California

Safer passage. Fewer crashes.

In honor of National Wildlife Day on September 4, let’s look at a recent environmental plan that made it into California’s budget earlier this summer. Gavin Newsom will invest $61 million into tunnel and bridge construction over busy California highways to reduce costly car collisions with wildlife. One project, the Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing, will use $7 million to create passage for mountain lions, coyotes and other native species above the 10-lane 101 highway that cuts through the Santa Monica Mountains in Agoura, just north of Los Angeles.

2018 data from the Road Ecology Center at the University of California, Davis notes 7,000 vehicles collide with large wildlife, like deer, each year in California. That’s nearly 20 a day, and many others likely go unreported.

“Between 2015 and 2018, wildlife crashes have cost more than $1 billion,” according to Cal Matters. “The expenses include car damage, personal injuries, emergency response, traffic impacts, lost work and the clean-up. Highways aren’t just crash sites for the deer caught in the headlights; they’re also a great divide that can threaten the future of an entire species.”

Many other states have seen success with new tunnels and bridges aimed at reducing wildlife fatalities and car crashes. California lags behind despite its environmentally aware reputation, but the addition of the Liberty Canyon overpass, the first of its kind in the state, will be a step in the right direction.

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