One troublesome and sometimes dangerous stretch of U.S. 97 will soon be safer for all of us who drive it.
Acceleration and deceleration lanes between 97 and 61st Street will be finished by Tuesday, April 26th.
“Anybody who’s going to be heading to Bend from 61st Street, when they take a right turn, they’ll have a couple thousand feet of their own lane to get up to highway speeds before they have to merge into traffic,” Kacey Davey, Oregon Department of Transportation public information officer said. “And the same thing for cars that are slowing down to turn onto 61st Street when they’re coming from Redmond, they’ll have a protected lane to pull off, slow down, so that you’re not affecting the traffic on the highway.”
Tens of thousands of cars drive between Bend and Redmond on 97 everyday, but it is not always a smooth commute.
“Between 2011 and 2015, between Redmond and Bend, we reported 130 crashes in that corridor,” Davey said. “10 of those crashes resulted in serious injuries or fatalities.”
This is all part of a larger $6 million safety improvement project, one that ODOT hopes will reduce the number of crashes and fatalities between Bend and Redmond.
ODOT commissioned a traffic safety corridor study in 2015, which was updated in 2018.
The study analyzed crash data and recommended short to long-range improvement implementation options that could be accomplished relatively quickly with existing funding.
According to ODOT, those recommendations have been incorporated into the project design in the following components:
• Deceleration lanes at Quarry Avenue and 61st Street from U.S. 97 southbound
• An acceleration lane from 61st Street to U.S. 97 southbound to provide greater merge distance
• Rock outcropping removal near the edge of the roadway for improved visibility
• Median barrier installation south of the Tumalo Road Interchange, and a turn around from U.S. 97 southbound to northbound at the end of the barrier
• Reflective pavement markers added for improved lane separation
Safety is number one, and it is coming one improvement at a time.