Cooperative Effort: The Highway 50 Connectivity Project

Shelly Blair, California Department of Fish and Wildlife
Hannah Clark (Caltrans), Kathleen Jermstad (US Forest Service, retired), Suzanne Melim (Caltrans), Shanna Zahner (Caltrans), Hanna Harrell (Caltrans)
Topic Area
Partnerships and Collaborative Approaches for Improving Transportation Ecology

The Highway 50 corridor in El Dorado County (ED-50) bisects habitat through the Central Valley, foothills, and the Sierra Nevada mountains, and has a history of wildlife-vehicle collisions. In response to public concern regarding wildlife-vehicle collisions on ED-50, Caltrans applied for a Transportation Enhancement Grant from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) to fund a wildlife undercrossing near the town of Placerville on ED-50 at postmile 13.5. Due to grant funding and lengthy site investigations, the project did not fit into the normal planning timeframe and the project took longer than expected to complete. The wildlife undercrossing was completed in 2012, and it was monitored by Caltrans and UC Davis for wildlife activity. The project was deemed successful with wildlife regularly using the undercrossing. Local biologists recognized the need to research the corridor in order to make better informed decisions about the placement of future wildlife undercrossings. In that process, a working group was formed between the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Caltrans, and concerned retired biologist. A second wildlife undercrossing is being planned as part of the Camino Safety Project (ED-50 postmile 21.95-24.45), with construction starting in 2020. This wildlife undercrossing will serve as mitigation under the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for potential impacts to wildlife movement from a 56-inch high concrete median barrier included in the Camino Safety Project, that will make the barrier continuous from Placerville to Pollock Pines, CA. Based on evidence of wildlife travel patterns (game trails, scat and Caltrans carcass removal data) seven sites (n=7) on the corridor within the Camino Safety Project were selected by the working group for motion-sensor camera deployment from October 2016 until 2019. A suitable wildlife undercrossing location was identified from this research and will be included as part of the Camino Safety Project. Research will continue at other locations on the Highway 50 wildlife corridor to identify other suitable wildlife crossing areas to include in future projects.

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