Help for commuting wildlife on the way | SierraSun.com
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Help for commuting wildlife on the way

Darin Olde, Sierra Sun

Why won’t the raccoon cross the road?

Because the furry critter will soon be able to walk through one of the nine “mammal crossings” being installed underneath Interstate 80 in Nevada County between Fibreboard undercrossing and a Truckee River bridge.

The new installations are the first time Caltrans has installed pathways for animals to cross the barrier created by the Interstate.

The transportation agency is installing the walkways because of concern that improvements to I-80 may be preventing safe passage of animals along migration routes that transect the roadway.

The agency is also concerned that the wandering animals may be posing a safety risk for motorists zipping along the concrete roadway at 65 miles per hour.

According to a report by Caltrans, the California Department of Fish and Game is concerned that extensions of the concrete median barrier along a 10.8-mile section of I-80 may impact animal populations that cross the highway.

“There is a lot of wildlife in the area, and they have been known to cross (along that portion of) the Interstate,” said Mark Dinger, spokesman for Caltrans.

Mule deer from the Loyalton-Truckee herd, for example, must cross I-80 twice annually to access important seasonal ranges.

The loss of these routes could result in the loss of summer and winter range habitat, and ultimately, the size of the herd.

“It’s a good mitigation measure for the project,” said Dinger. “Hopefully the animals will use it.”

In some areas, special fencing will be erected to guide wildlife to the new crossings.

The California Department of Transportation will reduce traffic from Sunday to Friday next week to one lane in each direction on I-80 between the Boca Bridge and Floriston, west of Truckee.

The mammal crossings are just one feature of a $86 million project to reconstruct Interstate 80 between West Boca and Floriston.


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