(Update: adding video, comments from ODOT)
Project will expand 3-mile section of road to four lanes by next fall
SUNRIVER, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Trees are coming down along U.S. Highway 97 south of Sunriver.
Oregon Department of Transportation Region 4 spokesman Peter Murphy said it's part of a plan to help reduce the number of car crashes in that area.
The trees are being cleared, to make room for the future northbound lanes of Highway 97.
"Well, what you have to do is, before you can put the road in is take the trees out," Murphy told NewsChannel 21 at the work site on Friday.
The project will make the highway four lanes all the way north to Bend.
"The thought was always to extend it at some point in time, when the money became available," Murphy said.
And now the money is available for expansion of the nearly 3 mile section between Century Drive and Vandevert Road.
In addition to expanding the highway to four lanes, ODOT will also have an opportunity to input a wildlife crossing under the highway.
Wildlife underpasses have proven extremely successful in reducing collisions with deer on the previously expanded part of Highway 97, north of Sunriver.
Murphy said that area of the highway also became safer with a raised median.
"It prevented those cross-over crashes, which are so deadly and so dangerous," he said.
Murphy added that the growth of Central Oregon has led to a need to improve safety measures, especially during the winter.
"With the increase in traffic that we have, and the incidence of icing and all that, what it does is separates the lanes, gives more space on the highway,” he said. “As a consequence, it's a much safer drive from here to the La Pine area."
Murphy said construction is expected to be completed by next fall and cost around $12 million.
Find more information here: https://www.oregon.gov/odot/projects/pages/project-details.aspx?project=19451