Mountain lions and other animals would be able to cross a busy Southern California freeway and find new homes if the state adopts a proposal to build a long-planned wildlife bridge, according to a new study.
The landscaped animal overpass on State Route 101 north of Los Angeles would cost up to $38 million, according to Caltrans research released Thursday by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
The 165-foot-wide, 200-foot-long corridor would allow big cats and other wildlife to roam between the Santa Monica Mountains, which are hemmed in by freeways and suburban development, and less constrained wilderness areas to the north.
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Experts say dispersing mountain lions is critical for preventing inbreeding but at least a dozen have been killed by traffic in the area since 2002.
State and federal legislators have endorsed a wildlife corridor in Liberty Canyon near Agoura Hills.
"A secure pathway also is essential to protect motorists, who could be killed or injured by collisions with animals," said state Sen. Fran Pavley, who lives near the proposed overpass.
At the proposed site, the highway has 10 lanes of pavement, including exit lanes.
Scientists long ago identified Liberty Canyon as the optimal location to build a wildlife passage because of the large swaths of protected public land on either side of the freeway.
State transportation officials will now begin the next stage in the process, which is the preparation of an environmental impact document. Public hearings will be held through 2017.
The National Wildlife Federation California posted a YouTube video starring actor Rainn Wilson about the threats of traffic for mountain lions who want to cross freeways to roam the mountains.
Wilson and a cardboard cutout of P-22 appear in the video promoting the #SaveLACougars campaign, which will raise money for the overpass. See the full video below: