Crews get busy on Ashland bridge projects

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Construction is ramping up around Ashland’s Interstate 5 exits – exit 14, Green Springs Highway (Oregon 66) and exit 19, North Ashland interchange.

“There is nearly $30 million of construction work on tap for Ashland’s I-5 interchanges,” said ODOT Public Information Specialist Dennis Steers. “The construction work has really just begun. It will get busier.”

The two construction projects are expected to be complete by mid-2012.

Prime contractor Concrete Enterprises of Stayton began work earlier this summer at the south Ashland interchange, building a crossover detour for I-5 traffic while the roadbed is lowered to meet today’s clearance standards of 17.4 feet.

I-5 is being lowered as much as two and a half feet to provide adequate clearance beneath the exit 14 overpass.

Traffic on the overpass will be affected beginning this fall but the bridge will remain open.

When the project is completed, the refurbished bridge will have two travel lanes, a center turn lane, bicycle lanes and sidewalks on both sides. Lighting, traffic signals and a short median will also be added.

“When finished, the bridge is going to look completely different,” Steers said, “and the bicycle and pedestrian improvements should really please Ashland.”

The South Valley View Road Bridge at I-5 exit 19 will be entirely replaced with a wider structure. The new bridge will provide two 12-foot travel lanes, a center turn lane, and widened shoulders on a slightly different alignment.

Prime contractor Oregon State Bridge Construction of Aumsville is starting work on the southbound off-ramp since the new bridge will be on a slightly different alignment. To keep traffic moving and accommodate area businesses, the existing bridge will remain open and much of the work will be done at night in the area west of I-5 on Valley View Road.

Art Deco design on tap for Ashland bridges

A nine-member Aesthetic Advisory Committee, appointed by the City of Ashland to make design recommendations for the project, recommended an Art Deco theme for the bridges. The new bridges will feature artistic treatments that reflect downtown Ashland’s historic architecture and natural environment.

The group found inspiration in design details from the rooftop of the 1925 Ashland Springs Hotel. Ten-foot tall concrete pylons at the ends of the bridges are topped by pointed “chevron” designs also found on the hotel’s parapets. The shape also is featured on the supports for the light poles. The pedestrian fencing with a rust-colored powder coating features a central arch design that can be seen on the hotel’s rooftop facade.

In another nod to downtown Ashland, the light poles on the bridge will provide supports for banners. Light fixtures will be dark-sky compliant to minimize light pollution at night.

The exit 19 bridge design is a simplified version of exit 14. Both interchanges will be painted a light tan color to match their natural surroundings and new landscaping will be included.

Exit 14 work includes major bicycle and pedestrian improvements

Finding ways to help improve the safety for bicyclists and pedestrians is a priority for ODOT and the City of Ashland. To that end, the state construction project for the Interstate 5 exit 14 interchange will build dedicated bicycle and pedestrian lanes that will connect to existing City of Ashland facilities.

Approaching the interchange from downtown on Ashland Street, the project will build new 5’ bike lanes and 7’ sidewalks on the interchange approaches. On the bridge itself, bike lanes will increase to 8’, which is wider than today’s safety standards. On the interchange’s east side, bike lanes will be 6’ wide.

Approaching the interchange from the east, a dedicated right-turn lane will be constructed for vehicles turning northbound on I-5. Cyclists approaching from the east will continue in the bike lane, traveling straight across the overpass.

Currently, vehicles attempting to take the southbound I-5 on-ramp present a potential hazard to cyclists traveling east on Green Springs Highway. ODOT will install a bike signal that is activated by a detector loop, similar to the way traffic signals operate, to address the safety issue. The bike signal will allow cyclists to cross the I-5 on-ramp before vehicles are allowed to turn southbound.

While still relatively new to Oregon, bike signals are an emerging transportation technology and Ashland will be among the first communities to receive one.

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