The Oregon Department of Transportation’s effort to keep deer and motorists apart on U.S. 97 is going so well that the agency is doing it again… and again and again.
Two under-crossings north of Sunriver on this busy highway have been in place for several years – long enough to produce a notable reduction in crashes. Now, there’s a new passage just north of Gilchrist on the way, and ODOT is set to build more south of Sunriver as part of an upcoming highway project.
Of the $11.7 million for this phase of the U.S. 97 South Century Drive project, nearly $2 million has been set aside for two bridges that will allow wildlife passage – one each for both directions of traffic – along with the associated fencing, gates and more.
For now, the new northbound lanes, including one undercrossing already in use, along with the southbound traffic, have been diverted to allow construction of the second passage. It’s expected to wrap up in the 2022 construction season, and ODOT Wildlife Passage Program Coordinator Cidney Bowman couldn’t be happier.
“Every time we’ve installed these wildlife under-crossings, when combined with wildlife fencing, we see a huge reduction in wildlife-vehicle collisions…upwards of 86%,” she said. “The animals are getting across safely, the people are driving safely, and we’re seeing lower crash rates…it’s a win-win all around.”
ODOT partnered with other government agencies and private groups to build and maintain the two passages north of Sunriver. Those partnerships will be in place once again with the new under-crossings – another success all Oregonians (two-legged and four) can share in. See an interview with Bowman about wildlife under-crossings, which have been helping keep motorists and animals safer in central Oregon for more than a decade.