Animal crossing: Area officials commemorate underpass

Greyson HowardSierra Sun
Provided to the SunA group gathers last Thursday for the dedication of the new animal undercrossing on Highway 89 north.

SIERRA COUNTY, Calif. andamp;#8212; Why did the chicken cross the road?Because now it can.An undercrossing aimed to reduce vehicle-animal collisions on Highway 89 north is open and offering critters a safe option to cross the road.Prime wildlife habitat and a deer migration corridor runs along a 20-mile stretch of Highway 89 north, making animal-vehicle collisions an unfortunate possibility. The new undercrossing, started last summer and celebrated in a dedication last Thursday, is located at Kyburz Flat, 13 miles north of Truckee.andamp;#8220;You know, we donandamp;#8217;t see these kinds of projects at Caltrans very often,andamp;#8221; said Katrina Pierce, northern region environmental division chief for Caltrans. andamp;#8220;They are innovative, unique and exciting.andamp;#8221;Kyburz Flats was picked because a andamp;#8220;carcass databaseandamp;#8221; kept by Caltrans since 1979 indicated a higher number of crossing collisions, said Jeff Brown, station manager at Sagehen Field Station.The $348,000 project was funded by a Transportation Enhancement Grant, according to Caltrans, and marks the beginning of a long list of planned work by the Highway 89 Stewardship Team.The team is composed of Caltrans, the California Department of Fish and Game, the U.S. Forest Service, UC Davis, the University of California Berkeley Sagehen Creek Field Station, Sierra County, the Sierra County Fish and Wildlife Commission and the California Deer Association.

andamp;#8226; In the U.S. alone, there are more than a million animal-vehicle collisions every year.andamp;#8226; Approximately 200 people die annually as a result of these U.S. animal-vehicle collisions.andamp;#8226; In the past 15 years, the yearly number of collisions has grown by 50 percent.andamp;#8226; Recent studies put the total cost of these collisions at $8.8 billion annually.andamp;#8226; Mortality and habitat fragmentation caused by roads are cited as major threats to 21 federally listed Threatened andamp; Endangered Species.andamp;#8212; Provided by Katrina Pierce of Caltrans

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