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Bay Area freeways rank as California’s worst when it comes to animal vs. vehicle collisions

Exploring California’s Coastal Regions
Downtown Oakland is viewed from Interstate 880 traffic on Jan. 11.
(George Rose / Getty Images)

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 UC Davis identified the state highways that are the worst for collisions and near misses with animals. The Bay Area has most of them; only two are in the south.

The Bay Area’s Interstate 280 is the most troublesome, based on the cost-per-mile of animal issues. It had 386 collisions reported in 2015 and 2016 that cost nearly $875,000 in cleanup and maintenance.

U.S. Highway 101 north of San Francisco in Marin County is second-worst, followed by California 13 from Oakland to Berkeley.

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In Southern California, the 2 Freeway in northeast Los Angeles provides the biggest problems, followed by the 101 in the San Fernando Valley.

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.

Caltrans, which would oversee such projects, did not have an immediate response.

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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.

Fencing along I-280, for example, would pay for itself in six months with reduced animal issues, the study says. It also suggests underpasses and overpasses for wildlife in key areas.

The state’s worst highways for run-ins between vehicles and animals, ranked according to cost-per-mile of dealing with the collisions:

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.

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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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