After several months of winter rain bogged down work on the Oregon 62 Expressway, prime contractor Knife River Materials is making the most of warmer, drier spring weather as activity is ramped up on the construction grade.
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 from Medford to points east.
“The constant wet, muddy conditions affected our work schedule, especially on the south side of Oregon 62, where we’re trying to get rock in for the third lane of traffic along with curb, gutter and sidewalks,” said Knife River Project Manager Tyler Douglas.
Work resumed between Poplar Drive and Delta Waters Road outside the travel lanes at night. Knife River is constructing new curb and driveway accesses along the south side of Oregon 62. A temporary, multi-use path provides pedestrian access during this work.
New, fish-friendly passages replaced the Lone Pine Creek and Upton Creek culverts. The realignment of the Lone Pine Creek culvert near Lava Lanes is permitting construction of a new directional interchange across from Hubbard’s Hardware. All south side construction is scheduled to wrap up later this year.
“The restrictions are designed to reduce traffic impacts because the daily volumes on Oregon 62 are so high,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher.
According to Fletcher, the schedule calls for two lanes of Oregon 62 to be 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.
“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. “Oregon 62 and Delta Waters Road is the busiest intersection in the Rogue Valley with traffic volumes higher than those recorded on I-5 north of Medford.”
Through traffic will travel along a 4.5-mile, four-lane expressway on the east side of the Medford Airport once the entire project is completed in late 2018. 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.
Construction picks up this month near Crater Lake Highway and Crater Lake Avenue. The project schedule calls for this work to finish in November.
Knife River submitted the winning bid for the project’s second phase.
RVTD Manager Julie Brown cited another 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 allows 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.”
New signs that direct motorists to move their vehicles off the highway after a fender bender-type crash are making a difference along the Oregon 62 corridor, according to ODOT Assistant District Manager Jeremiah Griffin.
“We’ve seen an improved response from citizens, law enforcement, fire and tow operators,” said Griffin. “First responders are quick to think about moving the vehicle to get the road open and traffic moving in a congested construction zone.”
Oregon law requires you to stop after a minor 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 Griffin. 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.
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.
Fortunately, fender benders are the least serious and most common type of crashes reported along the corridor. Even before construction began several intersections along the Oregon 62 corridor between Delta Waters Road and Interstate 5 had higher than normal crash rates. The Oregon 62 Expressway project is addressing all of those intersections with safety improvements.
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.
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