Pity poor Portola Avenue, it just never seems to catch a break.
First, the handy little off-ramp was scuttled. For decades, commuters may not have had a convenient way to get westbound on 580, but that sweet little eastbound ramp made coming home so much quicker.
That is until the powers that be decided to take it out and put in a spiffy new overpass that would take you to 580 in both directions. Then we endured the long construction period for the new and improved overpass. But when it finally opened, we could see that the former bridge to nowhere was now actually getting you somewhere.
Sure, there was a little twinge of sadness that the quicker ramp was gone, but we were adjusting.
Then came the news that the hop from the Portola overpass to the intersection at Campus Hill/Isabel would be closed until Oct. 5 prior to the morning commute.
Well, I read with interest that the reason was to provide safer wildlife crossings. When my husband realized Portola was closed, he asked me why. I was reluctant to tell him it was to protect the wildlife crossing from the hills over to residential areas.
That’s because we have been having an ongoing “Caddyshack” war with raccoons that have decided to come and dig up our new sod backyard. We have put tack strips on the fences and floodlights on the lawn. Yet the family of seven or so critters keeps coming back. My husband even got a non-lethal air gun to discourage them. Some nights it sounds like the fall of Saigon.
And still they keep coming.
To allay his fears that the new “wildlife crossing” wasn’t bringing reinforcements, I called the Livermore City Engineer Department to get the skinny.
No fear about the crossings being used by any animal bigger than 12 inches high and 8 inches wide.
These crossings aren’t for deer, raccoons or even skunks. The crossings protect amphibians. When the road was first approved, it came with the biological opinion from the California Fish and Wildlife that the road needed an amphibian crossing for endangered species.
Translation: a little commuter tunnel for red-legged frogs and tiger salamanders.
Assistant City Engineer Mike Cavalieri filled me in about the project. When the road was originally built, it was made with some prefab grates that simply didn’t work.
“The grates on the prefab unit were bolted down and not a monolithic construction,” says Cavalieri. “After the road opening, we realized the prefabs were defective and the supplier came up with a replacement that would be a better fit.”
Fencing keeps the amphibians from crossing anywhere except through the tunnels under the road, which in turn keeps them from being road splatter.
And how much is this costing the taxpayers?
Nothing, according to Cavalieri. “It’s all under warranty.”
Yes, even frog crossings can be covered under warranties.
And for those of you intrigued by the raccoon/sod tangent, after contacting various agencies including vector control, the answer came from our own local nursery.
As the sweet woman at Alden Lane told me in less than two minutes: “The raccoons only want the grubs in the lawn. Come on down and get some grub removal to put on the grass and that will take care of your problem.”
So far, so good.