MEDFORD VIADUCT Planning work continues this summer

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Negotiations with Portland firm Kittelson & Associates are underway as ODOT develops the Medford Viaduct Facility Plan, the first phase of a multi-part analysis into Medford’s most iconic and controversial bridge.

Without dedicated funding or a construction design on the shelf, the facility plan starts with a figurative white board from which to develop a 20-year vision for 3,222-foot structure, which supports Interstate 5 from south Medford interchange at Exit 27 to the north Medford interchange at Exit 30.

“We expect a scope of work for the facility plan later this summer,” said ODOT Principal Planner Lisa Cortes. “There’s a lot of work up front as we integrate the facility plan with the environmental study, the next part of the Medford viaduct analysis.”

The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) selected the project to receive $4 million in discretionary Enhance funding, a category of the ODOT capital improvement program that focuses on projects that enhance, expand or improve the transportation system.

“The added investment linked the previously-scheduled facility plan with an environmental study,” said Cortes. “The Enhance funding allows us to prepare a facility plan in conjunction with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the project development process.”

Facility plans generally culminate in a determination of what needs to be done to address an identified problem based on established policy direction and standards. Project planning is carried out in accordance with NEPA and is known within ODOT as the project development process.

The facility plan provides ODOT and local agencies and other stakeholders with a priority list of specific improvements. Recommended improvements will likely include a focus on capacity, safety, and changes to the local road network. Some solutions might be a combination of them all.

“Any future project for the Medford viaduct would also need to balance environmental issues with Bear Creek, park land and expensive right of way costs,” said Cortes.

The scale of major project concepts, such as a full replacement of the Medford viaduct, or the addition of another deck next to I-5, far exceeds the level of transportation funding expected through year 2020.

“When you start talking about replacement, project costs start at hundreds of millions of dollars,” Cortes said. “It is imperative that we look at improvements at a lower range of costs that optimize public dollars.”

ODOT in partnership with the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) prepares environmental documentation for each transportation project that receives federal-aid funding or federal approval from FHWA as required by NEPA.

Unlike the facility plan, which develops a 20-year vision for the structure and the community, the environmental study goes much deeper, addressing the challenges presented by more than 50 years of residential and commercial growth around the Medford viaduct.

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