U.S. 97 is a critical part of the state’s transportation system and is the main north-south transportation corridor through Central Oregon. This project aims to improve the overall safety and mobility for the freight industry and travelers on the east side of the Cascade Mountain Range.
ODOT proposes to extend one existing passing lane that is too short to be effective and safe and build a new set of passing lanes north of Gilchrist. By giving people the opportunity to pass slow-moving vehicles, this project would reduce travel times and unsafe passing behavior. This would improve the function of the U.S. 97 corridor and make it a more viable alternative to Interstate 5.
- Construct a new 2-mile long passing lane North of Gilchrist (MP 180.1-182.4) and consolidate highway access within the passing lanes
- Repave and correct cross slope through Chemult (MP 203-203.8)
- Extend existing passing lanes south of Chemult by one mile (MP 211-212)
- Construct a wildlife undercrossing to assist deer and other wildlife migration (180.1)
U.S. 97 near Chemult in Klamath County
Cost and Funding
What Problem Will This Improve?
Overall demand continues to increase along U.S. 97 and it continues to absorb an increasing amount of freight traffic, as well as a backup route in case the interstate highway is closed. As I-5 becomes busier and more congested, its likely freight traffic will migrate to U.S. 97 in search of a quicker and safer route.
The Oregon Department of Transportation has invested significantly in improving the U.S. 97 corridor, including constructing the Bend Parkway, the Redmond Reroute and widening the highway to four lanes between Bend and Sunriver. In Klamath County, where traffic volumes are less than in the Bend-Redmond urban area and the highway generally has just one lane in each direction, the primary need is to build passing lanes.
Additionally, the U.S. 97 Corridor Strategy developed by ODOT envisions adding passing lanes every three to five miles and eventually linking passing lanes into a continuous four lane highway. U.S. 97 in Klamath County does not meet this goal of passing lane spacing. This has led to longer lines of vehicles that sometimes result in drivers making passing maneuvers with high speeds and limited sight distances.