ODOT Planning Manager Mike Baker concedes that it is sometimes easier to explain what the upcoming Medford Viaduct facility plan will not do than what it will do.
Without dedicated funding or a construction design on the shelf, the facility plan begins with a figurative white board from which to develop a 20-year vision for Medford’s most iconic and controversial bridge.
The Medford viaduct supports Interstate 5 like a concrete and steel spine through the city. Two major exits — the south Medford interchange at exit 27 and the north Medford interchange at exit 30 — are on either end of the 3,222-foot bridge.
The facility plan provides ODOT and local agencies and other stakeholders with a priority list of specific improvement projects.
“Recommended improvements will likely focus on capacity, safety, and changes to the local road network,” Baker said. “Some solutions might be a combination of them all. The project team will use public feedback to develop the facility plan.”
According to Baker, the scale of major project concepts, such as a full replacement of the viaduct or the addition of another deck, atop I-5 far exceed the level of transportation funding expected through year 2020.
“When you start talking about replacement, project costs start at hundreds of millions of dollars,” Baker said. “It is imperative that we look at improvements at a lower range of costs that optimize public dollars.
“Our agency finished building the viaduct in 1962. Today, the viaduct is surrounded by environmental challenges and expensive right of way costs. There’s more than 50 years of residential and commercial growth that has grown up next to I-5.”
The facility plan’s objectives are to:
- Protect the viaduct’s function;
- Develop concepts to improve safety and maximize operational efficiency;
- Evaluate the need for capacity improvements to address future needs based on the adopted comprehensive land use plans of Medford and Jackson County;
- Identify potential local system enhancements that maintain connectivity and complement the viaduct’s function;
- Coordinate the study’s efforts with other plans and projects in the study area; and
- Prioritize viaduct improvements with consideration for potential funding mechanisms.
Citizen volunteers needed
Later this month, ODOT will be looking for volunteers to serve on a Citizens Advisory Committee, which would meet regularly over the two-year planning study. CAC members would represent a variety of interests in the project area, such as businesses, residential neighborhoods, schools, senior citizens and commuters.
CAC members’ primary responsibilities are to:
- Attend regular CAC meetings over a two-year period;
- Assist in identifying project and community issues;
- Provide guidance on project goals and objectives;
- Discuss, evaluate and assist in the development of potential solutions; and
- Make recommendations that represent their specific group’s interests.
The study will also include a Technical Advisory Committee, which provides technical and policy guidance to the project team. This group is commonly assembled with representatives from the local government agencies that are transportation stakeholders.
“Once we get a consultant on board, we’ll develop the TAC and CAC teams,” Baker said. “These teams will then help host the public meetings to provide the general public the opportunity to learn about and offer their comments and feedback on the plan’s development.”
Interested residents are encouraged to email ODOT Senior Planner Lisa Cortes at email@example.com if they would like to serve on the Medford Viaduct CAC.
Seismic retro-fit and scour protection
Two major projects over the past decade improved the viaduct.
An $8 million project completed in 2003 added a +seismic retro-fit, a process that used steel cables to tie the deck to the vertical piers, so that the Medford viaduct could better withstand an earthquake.
“One of the project’s more noticeable changes was the replacement of the old concrete bridge deck with a longer-lasting concrete surface, which provided a smoother ride,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Gary Leaming.
The project also addressed erosion control from Bear Creek floodwaters by ramming steel sheets next to the base of the vertical bridge piers for protection.
Narrowing I-5 to a single lane in each direction allowed prime contractor Wildish Standard Paving of Eugene to expedite the work. According to Leaming, the project would have taken three times longer to complete without a combination of round-the-clock construction schedules and paid incentives.
That stage was completed three weeks ahead of schedule and well before the Memorial Day weekend, which is the start of the summer tourism season.
“At that time, we calculated the delay cost to traffic was roughly $60,000 per day,” Leaming said, “and that didn’t factor in the disruptive cost to the community.
“I-5 construction projects, especially on the Medford viaduct, bring tremendous challenges in terms of mitigating delays and congestion.”
2010 deck crack repairs
ODOT returned in 2010 to fill surface cracks in the viaduct’s slow lanes with epoxy, extending the life of the bridge deck. The six-week project cost roughly $200,000.
According to Leaming, the epoxy solution used had been applied on other bridges throughout the state. The work, which leaves a green patina, requires hot weather so the epoxy can seep and set up quickly.