Right of way negotiations for construction easements along Crater Lake Highway — from Poplar Drive to Delta Waters Road — are at the heart of the current behind-the-scenes preparation for the Oregon 62 Expressway project.
“The right of way work is not as visible as construction work but it is no less important to the overall project,” said ODOT Project Leader Dick Leever. “Even though a lot of the right of way along the Oregon 62 corridor is owned by our agency, there are gaps.
“Our right of way agents are meeting with local property owners to secure the additional easements we need to provide the construction contractor room to work.”
The corridor is a critical business connection for freight, tourism and commuters.
“Oregon 62 and Delta Waters Road is the busiest intersection in the entire southwest Oregon region,” said Leever. “The traffic counts are higher than those at I-5 north of Medford.”
The $120 million multimodal project is designed to increase capacity and improve safety along the Oregon 62. The highway exceeds capacity standards and future growth is expected to significantly increase traffic volumes.
“Higher crash rates at corridor intersections, especially from Interstate 5 to Delta Waters Road, are a safety concern,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Gary Leaming.
The multimodal project adds sidewalks and transit-related enhancements on the existing Oregon 62 corridor. The project will also build a four-lane access-controlled expressway that provides faster travel and improved safety within and throughout the region.
The 4.5-mile expressway will start with three lanes of eastbound traffic at Poplar and Bullock Roads near Fred Meyer. Through traffic will turn left on a small directional interchange located across from Whittle Road. Traffic will then travel along a four-lane expressway on the east side of the Medford Airport, span over Vilas Road, and connect to the existing Crater Lake Highway near Corey Road. Traffic destined for commercial centers such as Costco, Lowe’s and Safeway will continue as is done today.
The first construction phase is slated to begin in 2014.
According to Leever, the most challenging segment during the first construction phase is located where traffic already runs heavy, between Poplar Drive and Delta Waters Road. ODOT plans to take advantage of a wide section of its own right of way on the south side of that highway section.
“Project staging is crucial to keep traffic moving and business accesses open,” said Leever. “Much of the first-phase work will be completed at night or behind solid barrier to limit the impacts to traffic.”
Traffic may be shifted from one side of the roadway to the other with construction occurring behind a concrete barrier.
Final Environmental Impact Statement
After nearly nine years of planning and public meetings, ODOT completed a federally-required Final Environmental Impact Statement last spring. The document is necessary before construction can begin.
Leever said the major concern he heard during the project’s public outreach period was how the entire project (estimated at $400 million) would impact individual properties along Oregon 62.
“Both the northern portion of the corridor from Corey Road to Dutton Road and the southern portion from I-5 to Poplar Drive are planned for future construction,” Leever said.
The 2009 Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act invested $100 million into the first two phases of the project. No funding is currently programmed for future phases.
“Given the transportation budgets we currently face and the near-term forecast, we’re really thankful to have the funds to begin construction,” said Leever.
The project’s engineering team recently fine-tuned the conceptual design, leading to $15 million in savings. The changes included:
- Building a short bridge over Commerce Drive to access the properties located along the east side of the Medford Airport instead of a series of streets from Vilas Road;
- Replacing the planned connection of Justice Road and East Gregory Road with an emergency vehicle access from the expressway; and
- Modifying the bridge over Vilas Road to accept a tighter diamond interchange design when on- and off-ramps are eventually constructed.