Wildlife Crossing Over 101 Freeway Set to Open by Early 2026

Wildlife Crossing Over 101 Freeway Set to Open by Early 2026

The wildlife crossing over Highway 101 near Agoura Hills as it appeared in April 2024. (Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing)

Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

5/9/2024

Updated: 5/28/2024

A $92 million project to build a bridge for wildlife to cross over U.S. Highway 101 in Southern California is expected to open by early 2026, California Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on May 7.
Calling it the “world’s largest wildlife crossing,” the governor said the Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing outside Los Angeles is making progress.
Once completed, the crossing will stretch more than 200 feet long and 165 feet wide over 10 lanes of freeway and an access road to reestablish an ecological connection for a multitude of native plant and animal species in the Santa Monica Mountains.
Officials and wildlife groups hope that the bridge will allow the area’s bobcats, birds, lizards, mountain lions, and other wildlife to cross safely for food and habitat.
“Our work to build more, faster is already paying dividends across our state,” Mr. Newsom said in a statement on May 7. “This wildlife crossing is just one example of how California is building infrastructure that connects rather than divides.”
The state is reconnecting and restoring habitats so “future generations can continue to enjoy California’s unmatched natural beauty,” according to the governor.
So far, crews are more than halfway through installing the first of 82 concrete beams that form the crossing, which is basically a bridge over the highway. The beams went up at Liberty Canyon Road in Agoura Hills, about 30 miles west of Los Angeles.
The habitat was home at one time to P-22, a beloved mountain lion also called the “Hollywood Cat” that lived in Griffith Park in Los Angeles on the eastern side of the Santa Monica Mountains. He settled at the park after crossing Interstate 405 and Highway 101.
P-22 was first spotted in 2012 and gained media attention, becoming the subject of several books and television programs. He died in 2022 after reportedly suffering traumatic injuries after being hit by a car, which could have exacerbated his longer-term health issues.
The state has worked for more than 30 years to link the habitat from one side of U.S. 101 to the other so that wildlife can cross over to protected lands in the Santa Monica Mountains and the Sierra Madre Range, according to Mr. Newsom.
“The overpass will reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions on one of the most congested highways in North America, decreasing the significant danger posed to people and vehicles by crossing animals,” his office said in a statement.
The state expects the bridge to provide a “safe and sustainable” passage for wildlife in the area, creating increased access for animals to find food, shelter, and mates.
The National Wildlife Federation (NWF) has made webcams available so people can watch the progress.
The crossing was proposed by the NWF and the California Department of Transportation (CalTrans) in 2015.
The project is a public-private partnership, with $58 million in state funding and $34 million raised from more than 3,000 private and corporate donors from around the world. In 2016, Wallis Annenberg and the Annenberg Foundation made $26 million available to the project to spur the community and local leaders to donate.
“There’s a reason I wanted to support this crossing and issue this challenge: We need to move beyond mere conservation, toward a kind of environmental rejuvenation,” Ms. Annenberg said in a statement. “It’s a way of saying, there are solutions to our deepest ecological challenges, and this is the kind of fresh new thinking that will get us there.”
The crossing is expected to be the largest wildlife corridor in the world, according to the Annenberg Foundation.
“Time is running out for these mountain lions, and the National Wildlife Federation is so grateful to the Annenberg Foundation for showing extraordinary leadership to help make this crossing a reality,” Beth Pratt, the NWF’s California director, said in a statement.
Partners of the project include CalTrans, the National Park Service, Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy, Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority, Resource Conservation District of the Santa Monica Mountains, and the NWF.
Ground was broken on the project on Earth Day in 2022.
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Jill McLaughlin

Jill McLaughlin

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Jill McLaughlin is an award-winning journalist covering politics, environment, and statewide issues. She has been a reporter and editor for newspapers in Oregon, Nevada, and New Mexico. Jill was born in Yosemite National Park and enjoys the majestic outdoors, traveling, golfing, and hiking.

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