November 23, 2016

A Rural Wildlife Crossing, not a Freeway Bypass

As former Agoura Hills mayors we have always recognized the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area and wildlife as part of our city’s identity and key to its semi-rural character.

Mule Deer Spotted South of Agoura Road
 Near Location of  Wildlife Crossing
Our wildlife is endangered by the barrier created by the 101 freeway. For mountain lions, this has led to inbreeding that puts their very survival in jeopardy. Many have been killed in attempts to cross the 101. As top predators, their presence maintains the balance of other species in the region such as deer, coyotes and others.

We strongly support a wildlife crossing over the freeway and Agoura Road near Liberty Canyon. It will also serve as a connector from the ocean to the inland mountains for hikers, bikers and equestrians. Construction will be funded with private grants, although Caltrans and other agencies have partnered in design and environmental studies.

 Agoura Road Near Proposed Wildlife Bridge
At the October 26 Council meeting, city staff commented on a design all other parties, including Caltrans engineers, environmental scientists and cycling enthusiasts, approved. Staff recommended a larger, 64-foot wide overpass with more impacts, including oak tree removal and disturbing a natural stream. This used standards for a “primary freeway bypass,” not our two-lane rural road through protected open space and wildlife habitat.

We oppose widening Agoura Road beyond the city's General Plan -- a maximum of 48 feet wide. Any plans the city has for adding sidewalks or bicycle paths in this rural area are unrelated and should be deferred. Building out Agoura Road as a freeway bypass will create a commuter shortcut with higher speeds, jeopardizing wildlife and the peace of adjacent neighborhoods.

After hearing public concerns, we were pleased with the Council's direction for staff to work with the overpass design team and return with a project consistent with the actual need and General Plan.

This matter has rested with the city for months; fundraising and other "next steps" have stalled. We ask the city to support the 48-foot option before the end of the year so there is no further delay. As with all formal environmental review processes, there will be future opportunities for comment.

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