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71/91 Interchange Project Supports Continued Movement by Native Wildlife

Feb 27, 2023 | MSHCP, News

Image of construction starting near the 71 freeway in Corona

The Riverside County Transportation Commission, along with project partners, kicked off construction of the 71/91 Interchange Project in Corona in January. Not only do commuters, residents, and freight vehicles use this interchange for travel between Riverside, Orange, and San Bernardino counties, this area also is an important corridor for native wildlife.

The project is a covered activity under the MSHCP and is in close proximity to the Santa Ana River. This area is identified for its sensitive habitats and protected federal and state wildlife. The MSHCP helped streamline construction of this project while conserving and protecting this important habitat.

The project is building a new connector from eastbound 91 to northbound 71. Once completed, the new interchange will improve safety with less weaving among lanes, expand access to other modes of travel, reduce greenhouse gas emissions with fewer idling vehicles, and enhance traffic flow by replacing the existing single-lane loop connector with the two-lane direct connector.

The project will support continued movement through this area by native wildlife such as mountain lions, bobcats, and coyotes. Although not covered under the MSHCP, other species like the northern raccoon and Virginia opossum also use the area for crossing.

Mountain lion, code M317, in Riverside County

Mountain lion, M317

Construction crews will maintain open drainage culverts to promote safe passage by the animals. Crews will also install wildlife fencing and use native plants to funnel wildlife into existing crossings. Easy access through this area helps animals pursue food and mates, avoid inbreeding, and increase genetic variation. Safe wildlife movement also dramatically reduces motorist-animal collisions.

The project is anticipated to open in 2025. RCA, RCTC, and other project partners will work closely to ensure sensitive habitat is protected during construction.