Officials celebrate laying the foundation stone for Highway 101 Wildlife Crossing

Wallis Annenberg, president of the Annenberg Foundation, accompanied by her son, Gregory Annenberg, to the podium to celebrate Friday the start of construction of an $87 million wildlife bridge on Highway 101. With significant funding from the foundation, the crossing will bear its name.

A crowd of hundreds celebrated Friday the launch of what was billed as the world’s largest urban wildlife crossing, which will span a 10-lane highway in the Agora Hills and may help save an isolated mountain lion population from extinction.

Gavin Newsom joined local, state and federal lawmakers, wildlife biologists and others to celebrate the start of construction for the $87 million Highway 101 crossing, a dangerous barrier to mountain lions, deer and other wildlife in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

“We did it!” Beth Pratt, the old advocate, called out to the crowd.

Pratt, the director of the California National Wildlife Federation, who led the fundraising effort, spoke from a platform surrounded by grass-covered hills and rushing highway traffic.

Wallis Annenberg Wildlife Crossing, shown in this artist's rendering, is decorated with native plants to look like a natural habitat.  The bridge will extend 210 feet over Highway 101 to give mountain lions, wolves, deer and other wildlife a safe path into the nearby Santa Monica Mountains.  It is expected to be completed by the fall of 2024.

“We are honored to be here and celebrate with all of you who have gazed upon this impossible dream and as I said…we will not allow these mountain lions to go extinct in our watch,” she said.

The planned bridge site near Liberty Canyon is one of the few remaining places in the area with natural habitat on either side of the 101. The land at this site is publicly owned and protected from development.