Designed to serve as Oregon’s signature visitor facility, the proposed Siskiyou Welcome Center and Rest Area was presented before the Jackson County Planning Commission, which held a public hearing on Feb. 28.
The project’s land use application requires planning rule exceptions because the project site lies outside Ashland’s urban growth boundary and is located on land zoned for Exclusive Farm Use. The project would be alongside the northbound lanes of Interstate 5 south of Ashland exit 14 (approximately mile point 12).
The new facility would house a welcome center, an outdoor kiosk and a 24-hour restrooms for visitors. The Oregon State Police would also have an office on the campus. However, it would not allow commercial truck traffic, which would be redirected to the Ashland Port of Entry station located between Ashland exits 14 and 19.
ODOT traffic statistics show that more than three million vehicles travel north on I-5 from California to Oregon each year. According to the Oregon Tourism Commission, every dollar spent operating a welcome center equates to $41 in visitor spending.
In November 1995, ODOT closed the Siskiyou rest area for safety reasons. The old site had a history of fatal crashes because it was located on a six-percent grade. After the closure, ODOT began working with the local community and tourism agencies to build a new rest area. Since then, the process has faced multiple land-use and funding challenges.