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A project is now underway that will create a wildlife undercrossing beneath state Highway 17 to provide a route for mountain lions and other wildlife to travel safely between two large areas of habitat — both of which are separated by four lanes of the busy traffic corridor.
Groundbreaking took place Friday for the Laurel Curve Wildlife Undercrossing in the Santa Cruz Mountains. It will connect 460 acres of land on both sides of Highway 17 that has been preserved in a conservation easement by the Land Trust of Santa Cruz County.
“This unique and innovative project is the result of community collaboration and aligns with Caltrans’ commitment to safety and respect for the environment,” said Caltrans Acting Director Steven Keck. “This wildlife undercrossing will reconnect habitat on both sides of the highway while helping reduce wildlife-vehicle collisions, improving safety for the thousands of people who travel the Highway 17 corridor every day.”
Construction crews have already begun building concrete supports under a 71-foot segment of the highway and, once the supports are in place, soil will be removed from beneath the roadway to create a bridge under which wildlife can cross. The undercrossing will be just over 13 feet tall at its highest point and will run approximately 85 feet in length beneath the four lanes of Highway 17.
The $5.4 million project is expected to be completed by the end of the year.