Work focused on utility relocation, right of way negotiation
Construction activity — relocating and upgrading a Medford Water Commission line — along the south side of Crater Lake Highway is another clear sign that the Oregon 62 Expressway Project is quickly approaching.
The $120 million multimodal project is being designed to increase capacity and improve safety along the Oregon 62 corridor. The corridor is a critical business connection for freight, tourism and commuters. Unfortunately, the highway exceeds capacity standards and future growth is expected to significantly increase traffic volumes.
“Oregon 62 and Delta Waters Road is the busiest intersection in the entire southwest Oregon region,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Gary Leaming. “The traffic counts are higher than those at I-5 north of Medford.”
Right of way negotiations for construction easements along Crater Lake Highway — from Poplar Drive to Delta Waters Road — are ongoing in preparation for a mid-2014 construction start.
“The right of way work is not as visible as the utility and construction work but it is no less important to the overall project,” said Leaming. “ODOT owns a lot of the right of way along the Oregon 62 corridor but there are gaps we need to address.
“Our right of way agents are meeting with local property owners to secure the additional easements we need to provide the contractor room to build.”
According to ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher, the agency is working with the Medford Water Commission as it upgrades its water line along the south side of the highway between Hubbard’s Hardware and Lava Lanes.
“The water line work will be underway soon,” said Fletcher. “Drivers will begin to see the activity off the side of the road. Eventually, the utility work will transition to nighttime work, so the pipe can be placed under the highway with the least impact to traffic.”
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.
“Higher crash rates at Oregon 62 corridor intersections, especially from Interstate 5 to Delta Waters Road, are a safety concern,” said Leaming.
The 4.5-mile expressway will start with three lanes of eastbound traffic at Poplar and Bullock Roads near Fred Meyer. Through traffic will merge on a directional interchange 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.
According to Fletcher, 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 Leaming. “Much of the first-phase work will be completed at night or behind concrete 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.
Fine tuning leads to $15 million savings
The project’s engineering team fine-tuned the conceptual design, leading to $15 million in savings. Those 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.
Environmental Impact Statement
After nearly nine years of planning and public meetings, ODOT completed the federally-required
Final Environmental Impact Statement in spring 2013. The milestone is necessary before construction can begin.
“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,” Leaming said.
The Citizen’s Advisory Committee (CAC) and Project Development Team (PDT) shepherded the project since its inception in 2004. ODOT, the Federal Highway Administration, stakeholders, regulatory agencies, and the general public worked together to develop the build alternatives.
The PDT included representatives from ODOT, the City of Medford, Jackson County, the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, the Jackson County/Medford Chamber of Commerce, the freight and trucking industry, FHWA, the CAC, and two citizens-at-large. The team was responsible for management decisions, technical quality and assisting in the successful development of the project.
The CAC comprised representatives of neighborhoods, businesses, and community interests. These members represent disciplines such as bicyclists, pedestrians, transit, agriculture, environmental issues and other interests.
ODOT also conducted other outreach efforts as part of the process, including public workshops. The first two project phases received $100 million from the 2009 Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act. No funding is currently programmed for future phases.