South Medford InterchangeProject bid, construction begins

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The South Medford Interchange project is ready for construction after more than seven years of development on the Rogue Valley’s largest state highway project since Interstate 5 was built.

Wildish Standard Paving of Eugene, the same company that reconstructed the Medford Viaduct in 2003, was awarded the project with a low bid of $59.6 million.

“We’re very pleased with the bid,” said Area Manager Art Anderson. “Construction costs ramped up over the past year, causing us a lot of concern.

“Now that we’ve got a contractor on board, we’re ready to get in the dirt.”

A joint venture with the City of Medford, the project is designed to improve safety and congestion. The project’s centerpiece is construction of a new interchange 1,900 feet south of the existing Barnett Road exit, I-5 exit 27. The new interchange design is called a single point urban interchange (SPUI), which handles large volumes of traffic.

The City of Medford is contributing $15 million toward the project.

Peripheral construction work began in February with tree and brush removal. Nearly 200 trees and brush near the Bear Creek bridges on I-5 were removed before interchange construction could begin.

The SPUI is located close to Bear Creek, so additional bridges are needed to accommodate the retaining walls for the on- and off-ramps.

Not surprisingly, the population growth in the Medford area was unforeseen when the interchange was built in 1963.

The project Solution Team and Citizens Advisory Committee worked through more than 20 different concepts before identifying the Highland Alternative as the preferred alternative in the federally-mandated environmental process.

“The development process took a lot of time but we needed that time to make sure we got it right,” said Project Leader Debbie Timms. “A project like this changes Medford and the surrounding area just like construction of the interstate did back in the 1960s.”

According to Project Information Specialist Gary Leaming, a video is available on the project Web site, www.smedfordinterchange.org, which shows how the SPUI operates.

“Our goal is to keep the public up to speed about the ongoing construction work, especially in regards to traffic impacts,” Leaming said.

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