Once it was decided in 1995 to erect a median in the center of "Blood Alley" on Highway 37, Caltrans soon learned that more was involved than simply dropping concrete barriers in place.

Everything from ambulances to tiny rodents had to be considered.

Crews had to work proactively.

"We were forced to look at the location and create an experimental project because of the accident situation," said a Caltrans source, who asked not to be named due to department press policies. "It had a lot of cross center line accidents and a lot of cross center line fatals. It was an unusual situation.

"It got to the point where headquarters and the powers that be decided - let's do it," the source said.

Even with state legislation ensuring the median's future, Caltrans engineering concerns still existed. To alleviate those obstacles, Caltrans would incorporate pioneering highway technologies into its plans.

A major obstacle was the inconvenience for emergency responders who would be unable to turn around on the roadway with a median.

That concern was alleviated by installing one of the first-ever electric gates for emergency vehicles. The two gates costing $310,000 allow emergency personnel to cut through the


median and quickly return patients to hospitals.

Environmentally, meanwhile, Caltrans used state-of-the-art technology and approaches to protect the fragile ecosystem.

Workers had to protect the plants as much as possible, Caltrans spokesman Steve Cobb said. Crews placed timbers on the ground and sheeting underneath to protect the foliage.

Special treatment was ensured for the tiny salt marsh harvest mouse.

"The workers had to walk around the tarped area and count the number of salt harvest mice," Cobb said.

At the bottom of the median, holes called scuppers were added which allowed the mice to travel safely across the highway.

Special irrigation also was needed to protect the mouse's habitat.All in all, Caltrans reported that $250,000 was spent protecting the salt marsh harvest mouse.

There were also limited time periods to work near the waterway, he said.