Roads and Highways

US 97: Lava Butte - South Century Drive

Location: Deschutes County, Oregon

Central Oregon’s busiest highway, US 97 in Deschutes County, traverses some of the most sensitive and scenic wilderness in Oregon. It serves the mobility needs of local communities and industry, and provides access to local visitor attractions. It is the second most important north-south highway corridor in the state, following Interstate 5. Traffic volumes are expected to double in the project area over the next 20 years, and major elements of US 97 did not meet the design and operational standards required to accommodate this increase. The resulting congestion and the potential for accidents would significantly impact mobility and safety. Safety for multimodal users accessing several popular destinations along the highway was also a concern. In addition, the highway bisects identified wildlife corridors and impacts critical wildlife habitat, including the state’s mule deer population.

In response to these challenges, ODOT selected DEA to lead this $18 million safety and capacity improvement project that widened and upgraded 3.8 miles of a heavily used section of US 97 using context-sensitive design solutions. DEA developed project alternatives; provided National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) documentation; and developed the plans, specifications, and estimate package for bidding and construction for project elements that included separation of northbound and southbound traffic; reconstruction of the interchange at Cottonwood Road; and new construction of five bridges, access control, and frontage roads. DEA also provided ODOT with construction engineering support through project completion. The project was developed with four key objectives: (1) increase capacity on US 97; (2) improve safety; (3) provide a natural vegetated parkway setting; and (4) improve the connectivity of the forest roadway system. This project provided many key benefits to the community, including:

  • Added lanes to maintain a high level of service for future traffic demands.
  • Enhanced safety by eliminating dangerous intersections and separating northbound and southbound traffic with a wide, vegetated median.
  • Preserved trees, thereby minimizing visual impacts.
  • Improved multimodal access between recreation attractions.
  • Channeled wildlife to prevent collisions and improve habitat connectivity.
The Federal Highway Administration commended DEA for our “outstanding commitment to environmental stewardship” and this project for demonstrating “a well-developed approach to promote wildlife connectivity and support highway safety for both motorists and animals.”

Project Awards

  • 2012 Exemplary Ecosystem Initiative for Exceptional Environmental Stewardship, Federal Highway Administration
  • 2012 Honor Award, ACEC Oregon