October 22, 2017

Letter Sent to Caltrans Re: Environmental Assessment for Liberty Canyon Wildlife Crossing

To: Ron Kosinski, Deputy District Director California Department of Transportation Division of Environmental Planning

Re: Liberty Canyon Crossing Project Mitigated Negative Declaration - Environmental Assessment Comments (SCH No. 2017091039)

Support for Alternative 2, Design Option 1

Dear Mr. Kosinski,

We are 8 former Mayors of the City of Agoura Hills. We have been aware for many years of the need for a wildlife crossing west of Liberty Canyon in Agoura Hills and actively supported acquisition of large areas of permanent open space, managed by the National Park Service, State Parks the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy (SMMC), and the Mountains Restoration and Conservation Authority (MRCA) on both sides of the 101 Freeway. We support the construction of a linkage bridge connecting the fragmented habitats north and south of the 101 Freeway. The SMMC began land acquisition and native vegetation restoration on both sides of Agoura Road approximately 15 years ago to facilitate wildlife movement in this area.

Expert wildlife biologists from the National Parks Service and the Santa Monica Mountains Conservancy thoroughly reviewed the alternatives for the crossing and also preferred Alternative 2, a crossing over the freeway and Agoura Road rather than a long, narrow tunnel that leaves wildlife to cross Agoura Road through traffic, or to use the existing underpass at Liberty Canyon Road with its commercial development and lighting. These alternatives were discussed and analyzed by multiple local, state and federal partners participating in the project, as well as by public testimony beginning with the hearing on the Scoping Plan in Jan 2016 and reinforced at the October 12th hearing.

We continue to be supportive of Alternative 2, a 200 foot long, 165 foot wide landscaped bridge over the 101 freeway and also over Agoura Road with the preferred Option 1. This option would be to construct a 48 foot wide bridge over Agoura Road, rather than the 54 foot wide and 18 foot high alternative. The steep topography from the freeway bridge to the protected open space south of Agoura Road requires the extension of the bridge to protect the wildlife and the motorists on Agoura Road. The reduced height to about 16 feet is consistent with freeway overpasses in our area and the 48 foot width of the Agoura Road bridge will reduce impacts to wildlife, as well as creeks and oaks along this narrow rural road. The City of Agoura Hills General Plan designates this section of Agoura Road as a rural road with two lanes for motorists, bicycle lanes, and no street lights. The 48 foot dimension is more than adequate to accommodate these features. The larger 54 foot dimension increases costs and environmental impacts with no justifiable gain.

Cal Trans has done an excellent job in providing public outreach on this project. There were well attended hearings in Jan of 2016 and October of 2017, press releases in all the local newspapers in the region, mailings to the public, and emails with access to the environmental assessment. Cal Trans along with partner organizations have encouraged the public to attend the hearings and send in written comments by October 26th. We look forward to the final adoption of the Mitigated Negative Declaration/Environmental assessment prior to the end of this year.

Former Agoura Hills Mayors:

Ed Corridori, Fran Pavley, Joan Yacovone, Darlene McBane,
Louise Rishoff, Jack Koenig, Jeff Reinhardt, Dan Kuperberg

If you agree, send your own comment to  Mr. Kosinski at:  liberty.canyon@dot.ca.gov

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