Transportation

These area highways are among California’s worst for collisions with wildlife

A light dusting of snow evaporates from the treetops as the sun emerges along Highway 50 near Icehouse Road in El Dorado County in 2015. The highway ranks No. 10 among the worst California highways for collissions between vehicles and wildlife, according to a UC Davis study.
A light dusting of snow evaporates from the treetops as the sun emerges along Highway 50 near Icehouse Road in El Dorado County in 2015. The highway ranks No. 10 among the worst California highways for collissions between vehicles and wildlife, according to a UC Davis study. The Sacramento Bee file

If you are a commuter, Southern California freeways are your nightmare. If you happen to be a deer, coyote or raccoon, the highways of Northern California are a lot worse.

A study released Thursday by the University of California, Davis, identifies the state highways that are the worst for collisions and near-misses with animals. Most are in the Bay Area, but the Sacramento region has two spots in the Top 10: Highway 174 in Nevada County comes in at No. 5, and Highway 50 in El Dorado County at No. 10.

Highway 174 in Nevada County had 75 collisions over 11 miles in 2015 and 2016, costing $216,521 per mile in cleanup and maintenance. Highway 50 in El Dorado County had 245 collisions over 54 miles, with a cost per mile of $118,692.

Bay Area highways on the list include Interstate 280 in the No. 1 spot, along with Highway 101 in Marin County, Highway 24 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties, Interstate 680, and Highway 9 from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos.

The only two Southern California highways to make the list are Highway 2 and Highway 101 in Los Angeles.

The study does not include every “wildlife-vehicle conflict” as the researchers call them, only animal-related incidents that are reported to the California Highway Patrol.

“The need for projects that reduce the risk to driver safety and lives, property damage, and impacts to wildlife is critical,” the study says.

A map of hot spots shows the worst areas are along the coast and on busy highways in mountain areas. The worst highways are heavily trafficked and generally in at least semi-urbanized areas.

The “risk is greatest when there are more drivers driving fast through or near wildlife habitat, such as the San Francisco peninsula, the Sierra Nevada foothills and the hills surrounding the Los Angeles Basin,” the authors say.

The study recommends erecting more fencing along the worst spots, saying it would quickly pay for itself in the money saved on animal-versus-vehicle collisions.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Worst California highways for wildlife

1. Interstate 280 in the Bay Area: 386 collisions over 23 miles. Cost per mile: $874,520.

2. U.S. Highway 101 in Marin County: 225 collisions over 28 miles. Cost per mile: $525,009.

3. State Route 13 from Oakland to Berkeley: 81 collisions over 6.5 miles. Cost per mile: $307,218.

4. State Route 24 in Alameda and Contra Costa counties: 114 collisions over 11 miles. Cost per mile: $233,567.

5. State Route 174 in Nevada County: 75 collisions over 11 miles. Cost per mile: $216,521.

6. Interstate 680 in the Bay Area: 221 collisions over 72 miles. Cost per mile: $193,762.

7. State Route 9 from Santa Cruz to Los Gatos: 119 collisions over 20 miles. Cost per mile: $151,995.

8. State Route 2 in the Los Angeles area: 33 collisions over 6 miles. Cost per mile: $144,731.

9. U.S. Highway 101 in the Los Angeles area: 13 collisions over 26 miles. Cost per mile: $137,735.

10. U.S. Highway 50 in El Dorado County: 245 collisions over 54 miles. Cost per mile: $118,692.

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