It's Los Angeles. Even the mountain lions need overpasses to get around. Earlier this month, California officials announced the state will construct the world's largest highway overpass just for animals, a project aimed at preventing the extinction of SoCal's endemic species.
The Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing is will provide a way for mountain lions, coyotes, lizards and other wild animals to cross the highway safely, bridging islands of critical natural habitat.
The face of the initiative is mountain lion dubbed P-22, a well-known resident of Griffith Park, the large open space surrounded by the sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles. The cat had to cross two freeways to get to the park, a harrowing journey that is emblematic of the hazards faced by many species that are being squeezed by expanding development.
The wildlife crossing will be located in the Agora Hills about 35 miles northwest of downtown LA and stretch 200 feet over 10 lanes of highway 101 and a feeder road. The bridge, currently in the final stages of design, is estimated to cost $87 million and to be finished sometime in 2023. P-22 is unlikely to use the overpass himself, but the California Department of Transportation has leveraged his celebrity to raise private donations for the project.
“He is world famous, handsome, everybody loves him,” engineer Sheik Moinuddin, a project manager with the California Department of Transportation, who's in charge of fundraising for the project told Christopher Weber of Associated Press.
The wildlife crossing is intended to reduce roadkill deaths of animals in the Santa Monica Mountains. Since the National Park Services started studying mountain lions in the Santa Monica Mountains, 17 of the 60 they have tracked have been killed on roads. Other species in the area are also at high risk for become road kill. Animal crossings over and under roads have been found to signficantly reduce collisions between cars and wildlife--prenting injury to animals and humans as well as damage to vehicles.
The financial plan for the project is to have 80 percent of the cost come from private donations and the remaining 20 percent from public funds set aside for conservation.