Our Riverside team completes construction of two wildlife crossings on SR-60 project
According to National Geographic, over the most recently reported 15-year period, wildlife-vehicle collisions have increased by 50 percent, with an estimated one to two million large animals killed by motorists every year. One solution that is effective in decreasing collisions between cars and animals crossing the road? Wildlife underpasses and overpasses. These bridges and tunnels are typically decked out in native flora, and they can reduce wildlife deaths by 85 to 95 percent as they prevent animals from straying into traffic.
On our Route 60 Truck Lanes Project, our team is widening and improving a 4.5 mile stretch of Route 60 in the Badlands area between Moreno Valley and Beaumont, California. This Riverside County Transportation Commission project, which is designed to improve safety and efficiency and reduce traffic congestion, includes adding truck lanes in both directions, upgrading inside and outside shoulders to standard widths, and improving motorist sight distance by flattening roadway curves. Another part of this project includes the construction of two 20-foot by 20-foot reinforced underpasses with wildlife fencing, which our team recently completed.
“To the east of us last year, we had a bobcat and mountain lion killed because there was no safe crossing across Route 60. Skanska built two wildlife crossings and set up cameras on the north side to see what types of species are using the crossing. So far, we’ve seen coyotes, bobcats, a variety of fossorial mammals, and birds using the wildlife crossings. The habitat is extraordinary out here partly due to San Timoteo Creek,” said Paul Gonzales, senior biologist for Gonzales Environmental Consulting, LLC on our SR-60 project.
Gonzales Environmental Consulting, LLC was brought in to survey the site before construction began and has been onsite daily to help facilitate the crossings. Other biologists conduct specialized avian, bat and botanical studies. Throughout the duration of the project, Paul has relocated a variety of species to safety:
“We had a Barn Owl on the edge of the highway that was focused on catching a rodent and unfortunately, was hit by a car. I found the bird when it was badly injured, so I took it to a wildlife sanctuary to heal. We have endangered bird species, like hawks, owls and many migratory birds, nesting immediately adjacent to the project site. We’ve also found a variety of snakes out here—including Red Diamond Rattlesnakes, a California species of special concern, Southern Pacific Rattlesnakes, Red Racers, gopher snakes and king snakes—that I’ve captured and relocated as well.”
“Protecting wildlife is an essential part of our Route 60 Truck Lanes Project,” said RCTC Chair and Palm Desert Mayor Pro Tem Jan Harnik. “Not only will this project enhance the safety of motorists traveling through the Badlands, it also will offer safe passage for a wide range of animal species. It’s terrific to see construction and conservation working in tandem to make Riverside County a better place to live,” she said.
Construction on our SR-60 project began in June 2019 and is slated for completion in summer 2022.