BEND, Ore. -

Recognizing the need for ongoing upkeep on important travel routes, the Oregon Transportation Commission has approved a $4.9 million project to resurface U.S. Highway 97 between Bend and Redmond, a project expected to take place next year, officials said Thursday.

The stretch of Hwy. 97 is the most heavily traveled highway segment in Central Oregon, said ODOT spokesman Peter Murphy.  An average of about 43,000 vehicles travel this stretch daily, putting significant demands on the highway surface.

There are many variables that affect the life span of the pavement, such as traffic volume, and extreme weather contributes to aggravated damage to highways throughout Central Oregon.. he said.

But for US97, ODOT believes the high volume of studded tire use has accelerated the destruction of the highway surface. 

Region 4 Manager Bob Bryant attributes premature failure of the highway to the use of studded tires.

“We know that the highway has worn away from the top down, and that’s classic studded tire damage,” Bryant said, adding that “the normal life span for a highway like this should be 15 years before ODOT has to reinvest public funds to maintain smooth roadway surface.  The damage from studded tires reduces that life expectancy  for this segment of US97 to just 10 (years).”

Maintenance personnel will make temporary improvements to this stretch of highway beginning in late August of this year to prepare for the upcoming winter, but the full grind-and-replace project will take place in the spring or summer of next year.