Watch CBS News

Groundbreaking held for $87M wildlife crossing in Agoura Hills

Groundbreaking for $87M wildlife crossing in Agoura Hills 02:56

After years of planning, crews finally broke ground Friday morning on an $87 million wildlife crossing in Agoura Hills designed to give mountain lions and other animals safe passage in and out of the Santa Monica Mountains in an effort save them from extinction.

It's no coincidence that the groundbreaking for the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing is taking place on Earth Day. When complete, it will be the largest such corridor in the world.

The crossing will span all ten lanes of the 101 freeway at Liberty Canyon Road. It will be 165-foot-wide and sit 10 feet above the freeway. It will connect the Santa Monica Mountains with the Simi Hills. The crossing will be camouflaged by trees and shrubs and include sound barriers. 

The crossing is expected to be complete by 2025. It is being funded through a combination of private donations and government support.

"It's an engineering marvel," Beth Pratt, regional executive director of the National Wildlife Federation, told CBSLA Thursday. "I mean, to put this living landscape on top, you have to put soil on top so that the vegetation can grow. And one of the other unique things about our crossing: nobody has ever tried to do it in such an urban area as well. So we have to do special design considerations to mitigate that sound you can hear. Because if an animal hears that, he's not gonna wanna go on top of it. The light from the headlights. I mean, all that stuff. We have to trick the animal into thinking they're not going over a freeway, or else they'll not use it."

Among those in attendance at the ceremony was California Gov. Gavin Newsom. 

The start of construction comes one day after a mountain lion was struck and killed by a vehicle on the 405 freeway in the Sepulveda Pass. Last month, a mountain lion was also struck and killed on the Pacific Coast Highway in Malibu.

RELATED: Home security camera captures footage of 113 pound male juvenile cougar in Mission Viejo   

The corridor is being developed following 20 years of studies from the National Park Service that found roads and urban development are deadly for animals trying to navigate the Los Angeles area. Urban development has also created islands of habitats that can genetically isolate the region's animals.

Researchers have estimated that the mountain lion population in the Santa Monica Mountains could become extinct within 50 years without an influx of genetic diversity. The lions are largely isolated due to freeways that act as barriers to movement across the region.

The crossing is named for the Annenberg Foundation, a major financial contributor to the effort. The effort is a public-private partnership that includes Caltrans, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy/Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and the National Wildlife Federation.

The design team is being led by Living Habitats LLC.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.