As construction transitioned from summer to winter, more nighttime work between Poplar Drive and Delta Waters Road is just one of the differences people are experiencing
as they travel through the Oregon 62 Expressway project work zone.
The $120 million multi-phase project will increase capacity and improve safety along the Crater Lake Highway (Oregon 62) corridor, a critical business connection for commercial freight, tourism and commuters.
“The safety concern is higher crash rates at corridor intersections, especially from Interstate 5 to Delta Waters Road,” said ODOT Project Information Specialist Gary Leaming. “The busiest intersection in the Rogue Valley is Oregon 62 and Delta Waters Road. It has traffic numbers higher than those along I-5 north of Medford.”
Reducing Traffic Impacts
Prime contractor Knife River Materials of Central Point is currently replacing curb, gutter and sidewalk along the south side of the Crater Lake Highway. A temporary, multi-use path, located on ODOT-owned property south of the existing sidewalk, allows pedestrian access during this work, which includes new drainage to accommodate highway widening.
Project plans require Knife River and its subcontractors to keep two lanes of Oregon 62 open in each direction from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Thursday and from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Friday through Sunday.
“Our schedule is designed to reduce traffic impacts because the daily volumes on Oregon 62 are so high,” said ODOT Project Manager Fletcher. This is critical during construction of a new (third) travel lane for eastbound motorists on Crater Lake Highway.
“The Lone Pine Creek and Upton Creek culverts have been replaced with new, fish-friendly passages,” said Fletcher. “The realignment of the Lone Pine Creek culvert near Lava Lanes will permit construction of a new directional interchange across from Hubbard’s Hardware to resume.”
The Oregon 62 access out of the Delta Center near Starbucks is temporarily closed so work can begin on the new westbound travel lanes, which will be incorporated into the new directional interchange.
The project’s second phase goes to bid in December. The second phase continues the new roadway north, spanning Vilas Road with an overpass as it follows the Old Medco Haul Road before reconnecting with the existing Oregon 62 corridor near Corey Road.
Once the project is completed, through traffic will travel along a 4.5 mile, four-lane expressway on the east side of the Medford Airport. The expressway will cross over Coker Butte and Vilas Roads via an overpass, and connect at a signal to the existing Crater Lake Highway near Corey Road.
The multimodal project also constructs sidewalks and transit-related enhancements on the existing Oregon 62 corridor.
RVTD Manager Julie Brown said another big advantage of the upcoming expressway for transit riders could be a Bus Rapid Transit route from a park-and-ride in the White City area to or near downtown Medford.
“Better access through sidewalks, the possibilities of Park-and-Rides for commuters, and the addition of signal priority will help us get back on schedule,” said Brown.
Signal prioritization will allow bus drivers, when running behind due to congestion, to change upcoming traffic signals to the green phase, thus putting them back on schedule and reducing time the bus sits in traffic.
“I see the expressway helping to alleviate congestion,” said Brown. “Signal prioritization will help transit deliver services on time.”
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To build the 4.5 mile expressway takes soil and building materials such as concrete and steel. Here’s a quick look at some of those quantities for the new roadway from Poplar Drive to Corey Road;
461,000 cubic yards of soil moved, enough to fill a football field 216 feet deep;
45,300 cubic yards of concrete in roadway- 25.7 lane miles, 12 feet wide; and
223 tons of two-inch steel rebar, 126.5 miles, enough to travel from Medford to Eugene.
Fender Benders on Oregon 62
Several intersections along the Oregon 62 corridor between Delta Waters Road and Interstate 5 have higher than normal crash rates.
The good news is fender benders are the least serious and most common along the corridor. Traffic flow problems occur when motorists involved in minor crashes don’t move their vehicles out of the travel lanes.
“Under the best of circumstances, traffic is typically heavy along the Crater Lake Highway,” said Medford Police Sgt. Don Lane.
To address the problem, ODOT placed signs along the Oregon 62 corridor to remind drivers of their responsibilities.
Fender benders get the name because it is the part of a vehicle that absorbs most of the damage in lower-speed crashes. Fender benders occur when one driver suddenly slams on the brakes, which causes the driver following to collide.
Oregon law requires you to stop after a collision and pull out of any driving lanes, even if the traffic behind you is stopped. This is to avoid a secondary collision, as well as to not impede traffic flow.
“Minor crashes are defined as when the vehicles are drivable and the people are without injuries,” said ODOT Assistant District Manager Jeremiah Griffin. “In these situations, motorists are required to move their vehicles, either to the highway shoulder or to a nearby parking lot, and away from the travel lanes.”
If you are the front car in a collision, motion to the other driver to follow you to a close place where there’s room for both of you to pull over safely. If you’re on the shoulder, stay as far away from moving cars as possible while you assess damage and exchange insurance information.
According to Griffin, safety concerns rapidly increase as the stopped vehicles in a fender bender affect traffic along the corridor and cross streets all the way back to the I-5 interchange and off-ramps.
“The likelihood of a secondary crash increases with each passing minute,” said Griffin.