SAN BERNARDINO COUNTY – Brightline West, an $8 billion high speed rail project connecting Southern California to Las Vegas, announced Wednesday plans to construct three wildlife overcrossings across Interstate 15 (I-15).
The company is partnering with the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) on the project to provide a safe path for wildlife – specifically bighorn sheep.
“Roadways and rail lines must be designed to connect, not divide,” said Governor Gavin Newsom. “This project will not only protect the precious wildlife and habitat of the Mojave Desert region but will also get people between Las Vegas and Southern California safely and efficiently – preserving one of the most popular corridors in our state.”
CDFW has identified three priority locations for the wildlife overcrossings – all in San Bernardino County.
Overcrossings will be built near Zzyzx Road, near Mountain Pass and near Rasor Road.
In addition to the overcrossings, the project will maintain or improve more than 600 culverts and large-scale crossings under I-15. It will also restore and install desert tortoise fencing and directional wildlife exclusionary fencing.
Over the past year, Brightline, Caltrans and CDFW have worked together to develop a coordinated plan for the wildlife overcrossings. The parties intend to fund the project using a mix of Caltrans, CDFW and Brightline West capital resources. They will also seek federal dollars.
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“Giving wildlife freedom to roam despite the growing infrastructure needed to support California’s robust human population is a top priority for CDFW,” states a Brightline West news release.
The company says San Bernardino County, where these overcrossings will be constructed, is a particularly high-need area.
“When launched, Brightline West will be one of the greenest forms of transportation in America and an eco-friendly upgrade to the I-15,” said Brightline West President Sarah Watterson. “Beyond significantly cutting carbon emissions and creating a cleaner, more efficient way to travel, this is just one more way the introduction of this system will ensure vital and long-term protections for a diverse array of wildlife.”
Brightline West is developing a 218-mile high-speed rail system to connect Las Vegas and Southern California. There will be stations in Rancho Cucamonga, Hesperia, Apple Valley and Las Vegas.
The rail line projects to eliminate 3 million cars from the road annually and create an estimated 35,000 jobs.