ODOT: Hwy. 97 wildlife underpasses have had bigger safety impact than expected
Vehicle-wildlife collisions are down 95% along that stretch of highway
SUNRIVER, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A pair of Highway 97 wildlife underpasses near Sunriver have provided more safety for deer and other animals -- and for motorists -- than planners had hoped.
The Oregon Department of Transportation says the underpasses have reduced wildlife-vehicle crashes by 95 percent along the highway.
Peter Murphy, ODOT's Region 4 public information officer, told us Wednesday that additional fencing has facilitated a funnel to safety, specifically for deer. The fencing was not included in the initial construction project, but local agencies have helped fund the efforts.
The Oregon Hunter's Association and the Oregon Fish & Wildlife Foundation have put up nearly $500,000 to provide fences.
To validate their decreased wildlife-vehicle crash numbers, ODOT's call centers have teamed up with law enforcement to determine any deceased animals along the highway.
The U.S. 97 passing lanes project is expected to be completed by the end of this year.
Murphy explained that the "heavy lifting" has been done for their nearly completed wildlife underpass project near Gilchrist, but there are some landscaping requirements that need to take place.
He said ODOT has not yet looked at expanding the wildlife underpasses to highways in the Sisters area, but they are open to the conversation.