Senator Cortese Secures Funding to Move Forward Midpen’s Highway 17 Wildlife and Trail Crossings Project

Senator Dave Cortese (D-San Jose) has secured $2 million to move forward the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District’s (Midpen) Highway 17 Wildlife and Trail Crossings Project and connect over 30,000 acres of open space in the Santa Cruz Mountains. 

The Budget Act of 2021 (SB/AB 129) that the State Legislature passed this week included Senator Cortese’s proposal to fund Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District (Midpen) for the purposes of completing design and construction of both the wildlife undercrossing and the regional trail overcrossing on the state highway connecting San Jose and Santa Cruz through the Santa Cruz Mountains.

“The Highway 17 Wildlife and Trail Crossings Project will create a secure crossing for trail users to experience the beauty of our natural scenery and terrain while, at the same time, facilitating the safe movement of our wildlife in the Santa Cruz Mountains,” said Senator Cortese.

One of the greatest challenges in furthering Midpen’s mission to preserve a connected greenbelt of public open space are land uses that fragment habitats and create barriers to the safe passage of wildlife, as well as people,” Midpen General Manager Ana María Ruiz said. “Highway 17 fragments thousands of acres in the Santa Cruz Mountains, limiting the ability of animals like mountain lions to find food and mates, and blocking several regional trail connections. We are grateful for the funding that Senator Cortese has secured for our Highway 17 Wildlife and Trail Crossings Project that will allow us to continue the work of safely connecting over 30,000 acres of protected public lands and habitats.”

The Highway 17 Crossings Project will improve highway safety by alleviating driver-animal collisions in an important wildlife corridor documented as a road-kill hotspot, increase genetic viability for deer and other species that migrate, and connect wildlife access to over 30,000 acres of watershed and protected public open space lands currently bisected by Highway 17.

The project will close gaps in the Bay Area Ridge Trail and the Juan Batista de Anza National Historic Trail, as well as link local trails, together connecting over 50 miles of existing trail.