$4.3 million request is made to the legislature to fund Phase 1 of safe passage measures on 97

Between Riverside and Tonasket, more than 350 vehicle-deer collisions occur every year in just 12.5 miles of Highway 97. Medical costs, car repairs, Washington State Patrol and Sheriff’s Department response, Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) clean-up crews, and the value of the deer all add up to approximately $6,500 per accident, costing the public more than $2.5 million every year.

There is a solution that has broad support. WSDOT is proposing comprehensive planning on this highway corridor in three phases that begins with an initial recommendation for installation of three wildlife undercrossings complemented by necessary fencing and cattle-guards on the most dangerous 4-mile segment(s) for motorists and wildlife. Upon completion of the first phase, vehicle deer collisions are expected to be reduced by 50 percent over the entire 12.5 miles.

WSDOT has completed a precise pre-design scoping document for the first phase. After implementation, partners will utilize monitoring and deer carcass removal data to inform future actions necessary for subsequent phases on the remaining 8.5 miles of this dangerous corridor.

Community partners from across the state, including Conservation Northwest and the local Okanogan Trails Chapter of the Mule Deer Foundation, have raised $200,000 for the purchase of the first undercrossing structure. A broad set of diverse organizations have expressed support for the underpasses including county commissioners, Colville Confederated Tribes, Freight Mobility Strategic Investment Board, and more.

We are asking the legislature to leverage off of this private support to fully fund phase one with $4.3 million in the 2019-2021 transportation budget. In addition to providing safer passage on this stretch of Highway 97, funding this phased approach will show how private and public partnerships can be strategically targeted to address similar problems that exist on other highways in the state.

Click here to download a PDF handout on this request to the legislature.

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