Caltrans, CDFW and Brightline enter agreement to build wildlife overcrossings

Caltrans, Brightline West and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, have agreed to design and construct dedicated overcrossings to provide a sustainable and safe path for wildlife.

Brightline train

Credit: Brightline

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. These 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,” Gavin Newsom, Governor of California, said. “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. These overcrossings will be built near Zzyzx Road, near Mountain Pass and near Rasor Road, spanning the entire width of I-15 including the Brightline West rail line. 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.

Over 2022, Brightline, Caltrans and CDFW worked together to develop a coordinated plan to fund, design, construct and maintain these wildlife overcrossings. The parties intend to fund the overcrossings using a mix of Caltrans, CDFW and Brightline West capital resources, while also seeking federal dollars.

Giving wildlife freedom to roam despite the growing infrastructure needed to support California’s robust human population is a top priority for CDFW. 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,” Sarah Watterson, President of Brightline West, said. “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 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 tonnes of carbon emissions each year and the creation of an estimated 35,000 jobs.