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'Largest Of Its Kind In The World': Plans For 101 Freeway Wildlife Crossing In Agoura Hills Released

AGOURA HILLS (CBSLA) — A planned wildlife crossing across the 101 Freeway between Agoura Hills and Calabasas, which will eventually be the largest of its kind in the world, is scheduled to break ground in 2021, according to new plans released Wednesday.

101 Freeway wildlife crossing
(credit: Living Habitats LLC/National Wildlife Federation)

The crossing is being built to give wildlife a way to traverse the 101 Freeway, and avoid being struck by any of the hundreds of thousands of vehicles that pass through the area daily. Several mountain lions over the years have been struck and killed while trying to cross the region's freeways.

"This crossing will save the local mountain lion population from extinction, stand as a global model for urban wildlife conservation – and show us that it's possible for a structure of this magnitude to be built in such a densely populated urban area," Beth Pratt, California's executive director for the National Wildlife Federation and leader of the #SaveLACougars campaign, said in a statement.

101 Freeway wildlife crossing
(credit: Living Habitats LLC/National Wildlife Federation)

The 165-foot-wide crossing will be 10 feet over the 10 lanes of the 101 Freeway at Liberty Canyon Road, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Once it's built, the surface will be landscaped to help the structure blend into the surrounding mountain habitat.

101 Freeway wildlife crossing
(credit: Living Habitats LLC/National Wildlife Federation)

The plans call for the top of the structure to eventually be covered in nearly an acre of native vegetation so that it can support wildlife and provide habitat, shelter, food and water that different species need to survive. Living Habitats, which designed the project, is collecting seeds, acorns and mushrooms that will be grown in a special project nursery, and planted at the site to allow habitat to grow vegetation naturally throughout the site from the soil up, according to the National Wildlife Federation. Native oak and willow trees sourced from the area will also be planted around the crossing, which will include nearly nine acres of space along the two adjoining slopes of the structure.

The crossing, which previous reports said would cost $87 million to build, is a public-private partnership involving Caltrans, the National Park Service, the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains and the National Wildlife Federation.

"This innovative structure, which is the largest of its kind in the world, is being designed to sustain native natural ecosystems while providing a safer transportation system for the motoring public," John Bulinski, director of Caltrans District 7, said in a statement. "Wildlife will have a safe passage over the US-101 freeway, and this will reduce the potential for animal-vehicle collisions. A safer transportation system for all!"

Five drainage culverts along State Route 118 were also retrofitted to allow safer wildlife crossings further west into Ventura County as part of the ongoing effort to make conserve wildlife and native species in the area.

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