California Construction News staff writer
The California Department of Transportation (Caltrans), the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) and Brightline West have entered into an agreement to design and construct three wildlife overcrossings across Interstate 15 (I-15) and the future Brightline West high-speed rail system connecting Las Vegas and Southern California.
Dedicated overcrossings will provide a sustainable and safe path for wildlife – especially for bighorn sheep – over the existing northbound and southbound highway lanes and the future high-speed rail system to be built within the median.
“Roadways and rail lines must be designed to connect, not divide. 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,” said Governor Gavin Newsom.
CDFW has identified three priority locations for the wildlife overcrossing – all in San Bernardino County, near Zzyzx Road, near Mountain Pass and near Rasor Road.
Beyond the three wildlife overcrossings, the Brightline West project will maintain or improve more than 600 culverts and large-scale crossings under I-15 that exist today. The project also will restore and install desert tortoise fencing and directional wildlife exclusionary fencing.
Crossings will be funded with a mix of Caltrans, CDFW and Brightline West capital resources, while also seeking federal dollars.
“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 Sarah Watterson, Brightline West president. “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 is developing a 218-mile high-speed rail system designed to connect Las Vegas and Southern California with a fully electric, emission-free system that will include stations in Rancho Cucamonga, Hesperia, Apple Valley and Las Vegas. It will bring significant environmental and economic benefits, including the projected elimination of 3 million cars annually, the reduction of more than 400,000 tons of carbon emissions each year.