Highways can be dangerous places for both people and wildlife. State Highway 17—from the southern border of the Town of Los Gatos to the Bear Creek Road overcrossing—has been identified as a “road kill hot spot”. This area is dangerous to both animals and humans who try to navigate an increasingly busy stretch of narrow highway. As a result, over the last ten years, 95 animals have been killed in this section of Hwy 17, including mountain lions, deer, and other animals. Wildlife accessible culverts and bridges are needed to provide safe crossing for wildlife in an increasingly urbanized landscape.
Hwy 17 has fragmented thousands of acres of open space in the Santa Cruz Mountains, limiting the ability of wildlife to find food, mates and habitat, and blocking several regional trail connections. Well-placed and appropriately designed crossings will help alleviate wildlife/vehicular collisions, enable wide-ranging animals like mountain lions to disperse, and provide recreational opportunities. To accommodate large animals and a variety of recreational trail users, a large crossing structure is needed.
Midpen is in the initial phase of developing wildlife and regional trails passage across Hwy 17, between Los Gatos and Bear Creek Road. This project was identified as high-priority by the public and is part of Midpen’s adopted Vision Plan which is partially funded by Measure AA, a bond measure approved by voters in 2014. Midpen is leading this locally, regionally and nationally important project and will collaborate with many partners to complete this work.
|2017 - 2018||Ongoing partner development, stakeholder outreach, and funding.|
|2018 - 2019||Environmental Review and Permitting|
|2019 - 2020||Plans and Specifications (Design)|
|2021 and beyond||Construction|
- Communications and meetings with partners and stakeholders are continuing to advance the project.
- An Open House was held in August 2017 to provide an overview of the project. Following the meeting public comments were compiled. The presentation from the meeting is available below.
- Provide for safe movement of wildlife and recreational trail users across Highway 17.
- Improve motorist safety by reducing the potential for collisions with wildlife (and recreational users).
- Maintain healthy wildlife populations.
- Improve regional trail connections.
As part of this project, Midpen will partner with the Bay Area Ridge Trail Council and others to connect county and Midpen open space lands and trails.
Today, the gap in the Ridge Trail between Sanborn County Park to the west of Hwy 17 and Sierra Azul Open Space Preserve to the east, is one of the most challenging and significant in the San Francisco Bay Area. Hwy 17 is also a barrier between the popular Los Gatos Creek Trail and the Bear Creek Redwoods and El Sereno Open Space Preserves, as well as parts of Sanborn County Park, neighborhoods in the Lexington Basin, the Santa Cruz Mountains and beyond.
This route is also anticipated to be part of the Juan Bautista de Anza National Historic Trail, a National Park Service administered trail which will ultimately extend from Mexico to San Francisco, following the route of the Spanish explorer.
This project requires a high level of coordination and partnership. Partners in this project may include:
- Caltrans District 4
- UC Santa Cruz Puma Project
- Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority
- Santa Clara County Parks
- Santa Clara County Roads and Airports
- Peninsula Open Space Trust
- Pathways for Wildlife
- Bay Area Ridge Trail
- Juan Bautista de Anza Trail (National Park Service)
Midpen is continually working to develop additional partnerships and expects this list to grow as the project develops.
New tunnels in Santa Cruz Mountains will provide cougars safe passage
San Jose Mercury News - October 15, 2016
For project information, contact Julie Andersen, Project Manager at Hwy17@openspace.org