RAINBOW, Calif. (KGTV) - A new overpass may be destined for the I-15, not for people but mountain lions.
A just-released study led by The Nature Conservancy and backed by the National Park Service recommended a stretch of the I-15 just south of Temecula - either an overpass or underpass like crossings in Colorado, Utah and Wyoming - allowing mountain lions and other wildlife to safely get across.
On the west side of the highway is preserve space owned by San Diego State University. On the other side are 73 acres just purchased by The Nature Conservancy. Experts says the local mountain lions have been cut off by the freeways and are practicing inbreeding.
"That makes them more susceptible to disease, and that could be catastrophic for the mountain lion population," said Cara Lacey, an associate program director at The Nature Conservancy.
Lacey points out crossings in other states have also cut down on vehicle collisions with wildlife. She says at least three mountain lions were struck by vehicles in that stretch of I-15 in 2017. Caltrans is studying a crossing on Highway 101, which would cost between $50 and $60 million.
Lacey says her group will spend the next year coming up with a cost-effective design before presenting it to Caltrans. She says they intend to explore private funding to help pay for a crossing.