Wildlife Crossings and Early Corridor Planning: the State Route 139 Transportation Concept Report and Implications for future Wildlife Collision Reduction and Improved Wildlife Connectivity

Julie Owen, California Department of Transportation
Trina Blanchette
Topic Area
Planning for Transportation Ecology

As part of Caltrans' highway system planning, travel concept reports (TCR's) are developed for each state route (SR). These reports help inform regional transportation planning and individual project programming. Developing a TCR requires public outreach. During the SR 139 TCR public outreach an unprecedented 44 responses were received regarding the need to improving wildlife crossings and reduce traffic collisions. SR 139, located in a rural area in NE California, has a local population of about 19,000 people. How did such an emphasis on wildlife connectivity occur in such a low-population area, and, will what has been captured in that report get carried forward into future programming? The answer to how such a response occurred started with a gathering of community members concerned about wildlife collisions and by chance, the right information being communicated at the right time to this collaborative group. The answer to will the wildlife crossing concerns get carried forward into future programming is complicated and uncertain but that is changing as Caltrans' advanced mitigation team considers the over-arching needs for improving of wildlife connectivity, Caltrans engineering recognizes the need for standard specifications for wildlife crossing solutions, more communities' advocate for decreased wildlife collisions, CDFW places more emphasis on preserving connectivity, state-mandated fish passage projects now require open-span solutions, grant opportunities are becoming available to improve wildlife corridors, and focus grows on collecting data to identify wildlife corridor issues. Also, 30 years ago it was challenging to get the engineering/construction community to see environmental avoidance and minimizations measures as part of a road project as a whole and not as something separate. That attitude in the engineering world is shifting. We are now at a point where preserving wildlife connectivity doesn't have to be perceived as something separate from road projects but as something inseparable from maintaining a safe travel way.

Abstract Keywords
Wildlife connectivity
system planning
partnerships and collaborative approaches