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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.

Central Oregon / Deschutes County / Environment / Government-politics / Top Stories / Wildlife
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Alec Nolan

Alec Nolan is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Alec here.

Comments

16 Comments

  1. That’s really good to know. There were some ‘birthing pains’ involved with establishing responsibilities for maintenance of the original east and west fences between Lava Butte and the Sun River(South Century Drive) interchange (that were part of the construction contract), but issues got worked out and I am supremely glad that the system is working as planned…

  2. Funny. As it turns out wildlife doesn’t like getting hit by cars any more than motorists like hitting wildlife.

    Who woulda thunk it?

  3. Great news. It looks like they’ve put a lot of thought into the project, including even those “deer guard” things on the road at the on/off-ramps (are they electrified?). Glad for every creature concerned that things are working. I’ve had friends who’ve hit deers at night, and it’s not good.

    1. Yup, those “deer guard” things are called electromats and are electrified with the intention of providing a slight shock to deer and elk that might try to wander across them without harming people, who would presumably be wearing shoes or be on bicycles and not receive a shock…

  4. I use this underpass all the time when I’m walking from my encampment to my meth lab. Me and the animals high-five each other when we pass.

  5. A successful solution for a problem that has plagued us practically since the invention of the automobile. Congratulations and thanks to the originator of the idea and all those who make it happen where needed.

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