Designed to serve as Oregon’s signature visitor facility, the Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center will be constructed alongside the northbound I-5 lanes, approximately two miles south of Ashland Exit 14.
With the Ashland City Council’s approval of an agreement to provide city water and sewer services, the project cleared the final hurdle before the first phase of construction begins. The milestone follows a nearly two-decade effort to replace the Siskiyou rest area, which was closed for safety concerns in 1997.
The previous rest area was located on a six-percent grade and had a history of crashes.
“We looked up and down the I-5 corridor for an appropriate, safe location to serve travelers coming off the Siskiyous,” said ODOT Area Manager Art Anderson. “Today, as in 1997, Federal Highway Administration still expects ODOT will build a new rest area to serve drivers coming off the Siskiyous.”
The Ashland City Council approved the interagency agreement at its May 19 regular business meeting with the addition of a chain link fence and gated service entry in the project design. In 2011, the city approved to extend services as long as the project was completed within four years. The latest vote removed that time requirement.
“We appreciate Ashland’s partnership in helping restore Oregon’s welcome center,” said Anderson.
The first phase of construction, the facility’s roadways and ramps, will go to bid later this year.
Traffic statistics show that more than three million vehicles travel north on I-5 into Oregon each year. According to the Oregon Tourism Commission, each dollar spent operating a welcome center equates to $41 in visitor spending.
“A Travel Oregon-run Welcome Center, co-located with the rest area, will be a local, regional and statewide economic generator,” said Anderson. “Not only would visitors stretch their legs, but it would allow them to learn more about the various travel destinations as they enter Oregon.”
The Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center will house an outdoor kiosk, restrooms and an office for Oregon State Police troopers as they work southern Jackson County and the Siskiyou Pass.
Commercial trucks will not use the facility. A restroom for those customers has already been built at the Ashland Port of Entry station, which is located between Ashland Exits 14 and 19.
The project’s second phase will build two Cascadia-themed buildings for the rest area. The Cascadia designs would add to the facility’s gateway look for visitors. The environmentally-friendly design and sustainable ethic will match that of the Welcome to Oregon sign and the new interchange aesthetics recently constructed at Ashland Exits 14 and 19.