State Route (SR) 68 in Monterey County California is a major travel way between the world-renowned Monterey Peninsula to US Highway 101 and the Salinas Valley as well as a Designated Scenic Route. The highway, which carries 25,000 to 30,000 vehicles per day, also bisects a regionally important corridor for wildlife movement. In 2015 The Transportation Agency of Monterey County (TAMC) received a California Department of Transportation Sustainable Communities Transportation Grant. The grant funded the State Route 68 Scenic Highway Plan (Plan) to evaluate current and future travel patterns between Salinas and the Monterey Peninsula, the feasibility of affordable mid-term operational and capacity improvements along the SR 68 corridor in context to other planned regional improvements, and the potential for wildlife connectivity enhancements. The Plan was completed in 2017.
This presentation focuses on the wildlife connectivity study conducted by Pathways for Wildlife with input from Caltrans biologists. Methodology included identifying roadkill hot spot locations and using wildlife cameras to record where wildlife were already utilizing existing bridges and culverts. The study resulted in a highway corridor wildlife crossing design that can be used as a blueprint to restore landscape-scale habitat connectivity and improve highway safety at 6 locations. The design includes upgrading existing culverts and installing directional fencing to culverts and bridges to form a network of wildlife undercrossings for multiple species.
Recommendations from the wildlife connectivity study are included as part of the design for the current Route 68 Corridor Improvements Project, which would mitigate for potential effects of operational improvements and meet the project purpose to improve wildlife connectivity through this corridor. The blueprint recommendations for improvements to wildlife connectivity will also be incorporated into future SR 68 projects identified in TAMC's 2018 Monterey County Regional Transportation Plan as well as Caltrans and the County of Monterey transportation projects. In addition, it will help local conservation organizations prioritize land acquisition to maintain functional landscape-scale permeability for wildlife movement.