Oregon 62 Expressway project: Construction start delayed to 2015

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A spring bid date for the Oregon 62 Expressway project is being pushed back to December, due in part to a backlog of right of way files and stretched resources working on the Fern Valley Interchange project.

The bid delay effectively pushes the start of construction along Crater Lake Highway to spring 2015.

“The right of way backlog is not isolated to southern Oregon,” said ODOT Project Leader Dick Leever. “With all the Jobs and Transportation Act (JTA) projects coming on line about the same time, something had to give.”

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 Crater Lake Highway exceeds capacity standards. 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.”

Coker Butte-area property owners

Coker Butte-area property owners recently approached the project team to consider an alternative expressway overcrossing at Coker Butte Road instead of at Commerce Drive.

“We have been presented with a unique, opportunity,” said ODOT Area Manager Art Anderson. “We have had a couple meetings with these property owners and look to move forward with this option.”

The Commerce Drive crossing provides the same access to the developed properties that exists today. ODOT estimates that the Coker Butte Road crossing would cost $1.8 million more than the crossing currently in the design.

“Most of the property owners have offered to donate their right of way costs,” said Anderson. “We’re continuing to explore ways to close that funding gap as we move forward with the Coker Butte Road overcrossing design.”

Addressing safety

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 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 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:

• 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 is 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.

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