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ODOT working on wildlife overpass design

In an effort to cut down on vehicle-versus-deer collisions in northern Klamath County, state officials are working on designing and installing a wildlife overpass south of Crescent.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is designing the overpass to cover a section of Highway 97, according to spokesperson Peter Murphy.

The need for an overpass was identified after ODOT and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife realized the area south of Crescent seems to be a major migration route for deer.

Over a five-year period, Murphy said at least 1,224 deer deaths were recorded along that stretch of Highway 97.

“We’ve also noticed a high mortality rate throughout the area,” he said. “For every deer that dies, you have a collision involving a human being. … If we can do something about that, we should.”

The overpass is estimated to cost $1.8 million. Murphy confirmed no funding sources have been identified. He added ODOT hopes to finish the agency’s in-house designs by the end of this year and then attend to getting the money.

ODOT would also install a 1- or 2-mile long fence to channel deer and other species up and onto the overpass. The overpass would be about 10 miles south of Crescent on Highway 97 at milepost 190, where berms flank the highway.

Wildlife underpasses installed near Sunriver have successfully reduced wildlife collisions along Highway 97. Murphy said an overpass project on Highway 93 in Nevada also has yielded a reduction in deer deaths and vehicle damage.

The underpasses south of Bend have electrical pads installed in fencing gaps, but those will not be necessary for the Klamath County overpass project, Murphy said.

The overpass design is thought to be more effective, according to Murphy, because wildlife species are more likely to cross the structure when they can see the other side.

He said the overpass should be approximately 184 feet across. The actual arch of the overpass would be constructed elsewhere and then installed.

This artist’s rendering is an early vision of the 184-foot wide wildlife overpass that state transportation officials are hoping to install on Highway 97 several miles south of Crescent. The overpass would hopefully reduce the number of deer and other wildlife vehicle collisions along the highway.