Moving Ahead - Winter 2014

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ODOT 12 2014

A Mail Tribune Advertising Department publication


Photo credits: Galbraith and Associates, Inc.

Ideas that Transform Communities

HDR’s Public Involvement Manager Alex Cousins partnered with Medford’s Galbraith and Associates, Inc. to lead an advisory committee for two projects in Ashland. The result? These stunning aesthetic designs for the 1-5 overpasses at Exits 14 and 19. Want to learn more? Contact Alex Cousins at: | 503.727.3920





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ON OUR COVER There’s a lot you can do in a day when you’re connected on the Rogue Valley Commuter Line, linking Rogue Valley residents from Grants Pass to Ashland via Josephine Community Transit and the Rogue Valley Transportation District.

EDITORIAL DIRECTORS Jared Castle, (541) 957-3656 Gary Leaming, (541) 774-6388 ADVERTISING Dena DeRose, (541) 776-4439




Oregon 62 Expressway utility work heralds major construction


Winter in the Rogue Valley Meeting operational needs for communities and the highway


Rogue Valley Commuter Line Weekday service runs between Grants Pass and Medford


Fern Valley Interchange Construction materials, supplies benefit local contractors, vendors

CONTRIBUTORS Bret Jackson Publication Supervisor Steve Johnson Photography Brian Fitz-Gerald Illustration Jared Castle, Gary Leaming Writing Sally Ridenour, Shelley Snow Editing

This feature publication is produced separately from the Mail Tribune’s newspaper editorial department. All content is provided or approved by the Oregon Department of Transportation. ODOT is an equal opportunity / affirmative action employer committed to a diverse workforce. Accommodations will be provided to persons with disabilities. Alternate formats available upon request.

A special thank you to Josephine Community Transit, Rogue Valley Transportation District, Noble Coffee Roasting of Ashland, the Downtown Market Co. of Medford and cover model Anasazi Underwood for helping us create our cover photo. See more online at ODOTMOVINGAHEAD.COM

December 12, 2014




The Oregon 99 Corridor Study, a comprehensive plan for the from south Medford to north Ashland, will go before Jackson County, Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford for approval in early 2015. Started in 2010, the Oregon 99 Corridor Study is being used to discover ways to enhance transportation safety and capacity over the next 20 years. The study’s


Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is comprised of representatives of local jurisdictions, including Jackson County, Ashland, Talent, Phoenix and Medford. “The next step is to produce a final draft, take it to Jackson County and the Rogue Valley communities along the corridor for adoption in their Transportation System Plans (TSPs),” said ODOT Planner Ian Horlacher.

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Last summer, the TAC received input from local residents, business owners and commuters who live, work and drive along Oregon 99. “We’ve tried to find a balance for the operation of the highway, which is also Main Street for these communities,” said Horlacher. “Much of that balance is tied directly to safety issues.” Traffic volumes along Oregon 99 decreased over recent years due to the recession, technological advancements and other social changes. However, with 15,00017,000 vehicle trips per day along the corridor, Oregon 99 needs safety and capacity improvements. During the 2005-2009 timeframe, 308 traffic crashes were reported along the section of Oregon 99 being studied.

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Most crashes were rear end collisions or involved vehicles making left turns. “There is no one project solution for the entire corridor but there are options for many different improvements,” said Horlacher. “Some of the improvements the TAC has identified include better access and signage to the Bear Creek Greenway.” According to Horlacher, the improvements are relatively low cost because there is no need for right of way purchases. “Right now, we’re addressing comments and finalizing the draft plan,” said Horlacher. “We’re looking forward to sharing the plan with the governing boards next year.”



MEDFORD VIADUCT Consultant interviews wrapped up earlier this month for the Medford Viaduct Facility Plan, the first phase of ODOT’s two-part analysis into the 3,222-foot structure that supports Interstate 5 between two major exits — the south Medford interchange at exit 27 and the north Medford interchange at exit 30. Once the facility plan is finished, the project will transition into an environmental study. The City of Medford and the Federal Highway Administration partnered with ODOT to select the project consultant. “We’ll probably have a scope of work for the facility plan by next spring,” said ODOT Principal Planner Lisa Cortes. “There’s a lot of leg work up front because we’re trying to integrate the facility plan with the environmental study.”

The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) selected the Medford viaduct environmental study to receive $4 million in discretionary Enhance funding last spring. Enhance funding is a category of the ODOT capital improvement program that focuses on projects that enhance, expand or improve the transportation system. The OTC is a governorappointed body that establishes state transportation policy and guides the planning, development and management of a statewide integrated transportation network. “The added investment converted the previously-scheduled facility plan into an environmental study of Medford’s most iconic bridge,” said Cortes. “The Enhance funding allows our agency to prepare a facility plan in conjunction with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) and the project development process.”

continued on page 19


December 12, 2014

Utility relocations on Oregon 62 precede major construction in 2015 Utility relocations between Poplar and Delta Waters herald the start of major road construction on the $120 million Oregon 62 Expressway project. The Medford Water Commission and Avista Utilities have been performing day and nighttime work on the south end of the expressway project. The utility work has required lane closures along a busy section of Oregon 62. “Nighttime is a different scene,” said ODOT Senior Inspector Shawn Daw.

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“Barrels and flaggers come out once traffic wanes in the nighttime.” The utility work is expected to continue until the project bids in March 2015. Major construction is expected to begin in the spring or summer. “Utility work is still a construction zone with a definite work area where drivers and pedestrians need to pay attention,” said Daw.


Addressing congestion and safety The Oregon 62 Expressway project is a multimodal solution that will increase capacity and improve safety along the corridor, a critical business connection for freight, tourism and commuters.

For westbound traffic, three lanes of traffic will extend through the PoplarBullock intersection. The existing Hilton Road jug-handle design from Biddle Road will change so that merging traffic will stop before it enters the westbound Oregon 62 lanes.

Unfortunately, the Crater Lake Highway (Oregon 62) exceeds capacity standards. Future growth is expected to significantly increase traffic volumes.

The most challenging segment during the first construction phase will be 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 the highway section.

“Higher crash rates at corridor intersections, especially from I-5 to Delta Waters Road, are a safety concern,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Gary Leaming. “Oregon 62 and Delta Waters Road is the busiest intersection in the entire southwest Oregon region. The traffic counts are higher than those at I-5 north of Medford.” 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 through the region. The 4.5-mile expressway will start with three lanes of eastbound traffic at Poplar and Bullock Roads near Fred Meyer. Through traffic will turn left on a small directional interchange located across from Whittle Road. Traffic will then travel along a fourlane expressway on the east side of the Medford Airport, span over Vilas Road, and Coker Butte 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.


“Project staging is crucial to keep traffic moving and business access open,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher. We expect much of the first phase work will be completed at night or behind solid barrier to limit impacts to traffic.” Coker Butte crossing redesign ODOT embraced an opportunity to leverage private funds that will help connect industrial properties along to existing Coker Butte Road instead of Commerce. In early 2014, Coker Butte-area property owners approached the ODOT project team with an alternative crossing idea that would better connect the properties along the east side of the Medford Airport. While the Commerce Drive crossing provided the same access to the properties that exists today, it would have a marginal connection to several properties poised for eventual industrial development. The property owners will donate right of way to reduce the cost of the design change, which is estimated to cost about $1.8 million.

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“By constructing the minimum extension of Coker Butter that has direct, signalized access to Crater Lake Highway, the project will open those industrial properties to future job opportunities for the Rogue Valley,” said ODOT Region Manager Frank Reading. “The agency’s goal is to build the best design for the money

December 12, 2014

we have. And we’ll do that thanks to the partnership with the property owners, the city and the airport.” The design change requires a revision to the federally-required Environmental Impact Statement, which pushed back the project bid date to March 2015.



facelift coming in 2015 A 15-mile stretch of the Redwood Highway (U.S. 199) is scheduled for a $4.9 million facelift in summer 2015. The pavement improvement project targets the section located west of Grants Pass from Slate Creek Road to south of the community of Cave Junction. Prime contractor Oregon Mainline Paving of McMinnville will put down new pavement, add rumble strips to the shoulders and center line and add fresh stripes along the entire stretch of highway.

The lane conversion calls for converting the number of through traffic lanes from four to three, including a two-way, left turn lane. The design adds bicycle lanes on both sides of the Redwood Highway and improves pedestrian access along a half-mile section in the city limits.

the “ Improving pavement and

The genesis of the lane conversion design came about during Cave Junction’s transportation system plan update (TSP). Cave — ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon Junction began its TSP update after receiving a Transportation & Growth “Redwood Highway between Management (TGM) planning Grants Pass and Cave Junction has grant from ODOT. a higher-than-normal rate of drivers “TGM grants provide money to who simply run off the road,” help local governments plan for said ODOT District Manager Jerry their future transportation needs,” Marmon. “Improving the pavement and installing the rumble strips should said ODOT Planner John McDonald. “The TSP is even more beneficial help alert drivers to keep it between when there is a project scheduled the lines.” for construction within the next few The project also incorporates Cave years. Cave Junction is working with Junction’s lane conversion project, ODOT to make that project better for which has been in development for everyone.” the past year.


installing the rumble strips should help alert drivers to keep it between the lines.

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Cave Junction’s TSP update identified several issues of concern to local citizens and businesses, primarily traffic speed and safety, and motorists within the city limits.

conversion would solve a lot of problems.

According to Cave Junction City Recorder Ryan Nolan, the biggest issues the city addressed involved traffic and pedestrian safety.

“Changing this to a three-lane section with a center turn refuge will lower the crash rate,” said ODOT Traffic Engineer Dan Dorrell. “It will also make downtown Cave Junction more livable, and safer for cyclists and pedestrians.”

“Our biggest traffic complaint is speeding through town,” said Nolan. “We are appreciative of the ways ODOT has worked with us to help slow traffic down.”

The city is leading the discussion with the public. City staff hosted open houses and shared the design concepts at public art walks and city council meetings.

ODOT worked with Cave Junction to identify potential improvements that would address local traffic concerns. After examining traffic patterns, volumes and collisions, Cave Junction and ODOT determined that a lane

“The lane conversion design is a win for all,” said McDonald. “Businesses will have improved access and drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians will all reap the travel and safety benefits.”

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$2.2 MILLION SAFETY PROJECT TO FIX I-5 EXIT 61 INTERCHANGE Most afternoons, long backups on the northbound Interstate 5 off-ramp at Merlin’s exit 61 are not uncommon. The close proximity of Highland Drive exacerbates a growing traffic problem for Merlin-area commuters returning home from Grants Pass.

According to Leaming, the improvement project will build a second northbound lane near the end of the exit 61 off-ramp and an additional westbound lane on Merlin Road between the off-ramp and Monument Drive.

A $2.2 million project, scheduled to begin construction in summer 2015, will make safety improvements at the northbound off-ramp and the local roadway. ODOT expects to have a contractor on board next spring with construction underway by June.

Traffic signals Additionally, the interchange safety project will construct a right-turn lane on Merlin Road to Monument Drive and install new traffic signals at the end of the northbound off-ramp.

“The Merlin interchange project has been in the planning phase for several years,” said Project Information Specialist Gary Leaming. “It’s good to see it finally go to bid early next year.”


“These safety improvements will reduce the frequency and length of backups on the northbound exit 61 off-ramp,” said Leaming. “Merlin used to be a rural interchange but the higher traffic volumes now warrant a traffic signal.” December 12, 2014

AGENCIES COORDINATE TO TACKLE VALLEY SNOWSTORMS An early December snowstorm in 2013 blanketed the Rogue Valley for an entire weekend, from the reaches of the Siskiyou and Sexton passes down to the valley floor. The recipe for that snowy cocktail was a moisture-rich Arctic front and a stagnant cold-air mass; those two elements caused a week-long headache for motorists and emergency service providers as snow melt turned into ice. On the first day alone, more than 100 vehicle crashes were reported on state highways in the Rogue Valley. “The whole weekend was a mess,” said ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon. “The temperatures dropped, so whatever snow melted during the day quickly turned into ice, making the roads a challenge.”

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Jackson County Roads and Parks Director John Vial hosted a “Winter Weather Coordination Meeting” prior to the Thanksgiving weekend, which is commonly recognized as the start of the winter response season. The coordination meeting included representatives from local cities, fire departments, Oregon State Police, Jackson County Sheriff’s Office, Emergency Communications of Southern Oregon and ODOT. “We’ve hosted coordination meetings like this for the Siskiyou Pass but this was the first one focused more on the valley floor,” said Marmon. “Because each road crew has limited winter resources, Jackson County’s meeting was a good opportunity to synchronize our efforts and provide better service.” continued on page 18


RESTRICTIONS ON THE SISKIYOU PASS ODOT and Oregon State Police maintain check points on either side of the Siskiyou pass and will turn a motorist around if they aren’t prepared. The basic Carry Chains requirement and three additional types of restrictions are used. Carry Chains When signs say you must carry chains, the chains must be in or on your vehicle


all winter, and must be the right size and of sufficient number to comply with chain laws. Single Axle Trucks and Vehicles Pulling Trailers Under this restriction, all single axle trucks over 10,000 GVW (gross vehicle weight), trucks pulling double trailers, and any vehicle pulling a trailer is December 12, 2014

required to install chains. Traction tires cannot be substituted for chains. All Trucks and Vehicles Pulling Trailers Under this restriction, all trucks over 10,000 GVW as well as any vehicle pulling a trailer needs to chain up. Traction tires cannot be substituted for chains.

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Full Chain Restriction This is the most severe winter restriction used in Oregon (short of a full closure). Under the Full Chain restriction, all vehicles, with the exception of 4-wheel drive and emergency response vehicles, are required to install chains. A traction tire is not allowed to substitute for chains.


RESTRICTIONS ON THE SISKIYOU PASS ODOT and Oregon State Police maintain check points on either side of the Siskiyou pass and will turn a motorist around if they aren’t prepared. The basic Carry Chains requirement and three additional types of restrictions are used. Carry Chains When signs say you must carry chains, the chains must be in or on your vehicle


all winter, and must be the right size and of sufficient number to comply with chain laws. Single Axle Trucks and Vehicles Pulling Trailers Under this restriction, all single axle trucks over 10,000 GVW (gross vehicle weight), trucks pulling double trailers, and any vehicle pulling a trailer is December 12, 2014

required to install chains. Traction tires cannot be substituted for chains. All Trucks and Vehicles Pulling Trailers Under this restriction, all trucks over 10,000 GVW as well as any vehicle pulling a trailer needs to chain up. Traction tires cannot be substituted for chains.

December 12, 2014

Full Chain Restriction This is the most severe winter restriction used in Oregon (short of a full closure). Under the Full Chain restriction, all vehicles, with the exception of 4-wheel drive and emergency response vehicles, are required to install chains. A traction tire is not allowed to substitute for chains.


Know Chain Requirements

Before You Go

Snow zone signs inform motorists about the current requirements for chains and traction tires. Normally, three messages may be displayed on these signs throughout the winter months. 1. Carry Chains or Traction Tires When signs say you must carry chains or traction tires, the chains or traction tires must be in or on your vehicle, and they must be the right size for your vehicle and of sufficient number to comply with the chain rules. 2. Chains Required on Vehicles Towing or Over 10,000 GVW When this message is displayed, vehicles towing or rated for more than 10,000 pounds GVW (gross vehicle weight) must use chains. 3. Chains Required-Traction Tires Allowed on Vehicles Under 10,000 GVW Vehicles towing or rated for 10,000 pounds GVW must use chains. Vehicles weighing 10,000 pounds GVW or less and that are not towing must use chains or traction tires.

CHAIN REQUIREMENTS Chains include link chains, cable chains, or any other device that attaches to the wheel, vehicle, or outside of the tire that is specifically designed to increase traction on ice and snow. Traction tires include studded tires or other tires that meet tire industry standards for use in severe snow conditions. Studless traction tires that meet Rubber Manufacturers Association standards for use in severe snow conditions carry a special symbol on the tire sidewall: a three-peaked mountain


and snowflake. Research shows these tires provide better traction than studded tires on bare pavement. When towing, cars and light trucks must use chains on both tires of the drive axle. Chains also must be on the two outside tires of at least one axle of a trailer that is equipped with a brake. In most winter conditions, fourwheel and all-wheel-drive vehicles are exempt from the requirement to use chains or traction tires if the vehicle is not towing.

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Safety project to upgrade White City intersection Safety upgrades are on the horizon for the busy intersection of Oregon 62 and 140 in White City. According to ODOT District Manager Jerry Marmon, the $1.4 million safety project will begin construction in summer 2015. “The Oregon 62-Oregon 140 intersection ranks high on our crash list,” said Marmon. “During 20072011, 30 crashes were reported with most being rear-end crashes. Turning crashes or failing to yield right of way were the next highest types of crashes.” A lot of the work will be conducted at night to reduce traffic impacts. The safety project will add new traffic signals, signs and illumination as well as make pedestrian safety

improvements throughout the intersection. Grinding work is necessary so that traffic signal loops can be replaced with cameras for demand-actuated traffic signals. The entire intersection will be repaved after the safety improvements are installed. “We’ll also make improvements to the current shared though lane and left-turn lane for westbound traffic,” said Marmon. “And we’ll widen the east and west approaches to the intersection of Crater Lake Highway (Oregon 62) to accommodate dedicated left-turn, right-turn and through lanes. “This intersection is a priority for us. We’re looking forward to this safety upgrade.”

continued from page 13 ODOT maintenance crews use many different tools and practices, including plowing, chemicals, salt, and sanding materials, to stay ahead of the winter weather. The crews transition schedules to provide 24-hour coverage during the winter to keep employees fresh and ready to respond to any storm, day or night. “Our crews really gear up for winter,” said Marmon. “When a snowstorm hits, it’s an all-hands-on-deck event.” Siskiyou Pass The Siskiyou Pass presents a unique challenge. When a storm hits Southern Oregon, the highest priority is the ten-mile stretch of Siskiyou Pass on I-5 due to its importance as a regional freight route and its high traffic volumes. The Siskiyou Pass is Oregon’s only mountain pass where all-weather or studded tires cannot be substituted for chains.


“Because of the grades, the traffic and the experience of drivers on Siskiyou Pass, we go to a higher standard of traction devices,” Marmon said. “When we say chains are required on the Siskiyous, every vehicle has to chain up except vehicles equipped with four-wheel drive.” Ill-equipped for winter Storm-related delays and short-term closures on the Siskiyou Pass are a common occurrence. However, motorists are often caught illequipped for traveling over the I-5 mountain pass. “One of the biggest errors we see is people unprepared for winter conditions and a long wait in their car,” said Marmon. “We’ve seen people in shorts and tennis shoes. They have no gloves and no flashlight, but they’re bent over in the snow trying to chain up.”

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continued from page 6 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. “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.”

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However, 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. 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 52 years of residential and commercial growth around the Medford viaduct. “The Medford viaduct was originally constructed in 1962,” said Cortes. “Medford looked a lot different back then.”



BOASTS GROWING RIDERSHIP Just two months into its three-year demonstration project, the Rogue Valley Commuter Line (RVCL) service is attracting an enthusiastic, growing customer base for the round-trip bus service from Grants Pass to Medford. The weekday service began in September with five trips departing from both Grants Pass and Medford per day. The new service also provides stops in Rogue River and Gold Hill. RVCL riders can make free transfers on Josephine Community Transit and the Rogue Valley Transportation District (RVTD). According to Scott Chancey, the Josephine Community Transit Program Supervisor, the RVCL nearly reached 2,200 boardings over the first two months of service. “The response from the entire Rogue Valley has been overwhelmingly supportive,” said Chancey. “I appreciate everyone’s help, especially from RVTD, in starting this service and look forward to its continued success.” RVCL averages 51 boardings per day but has already reached a single-day high of 115 passengers. The early figures break down to 500 boardings originating in Grants Pass, 76 in Rogue River, 38 in Gold Hill and 560 in Medford. The 11:05 a.m. run shows the highest ridership, followed by the 3:15 p.m. service. “My goal when we started the service was to average 100 boardings per day, so we’re halfway there,” said Chancey. “I plan to do a big media push for the winter term of Rogue Community College as well as launch other marketing efforts.”


Chancey said an on-board passenger survey is also planned for spring 2015 to obtain better origin/destination statistics and rider demographics. The Middle Rogue Metropolitan Planning Organization funds RVCL with monies passed down from the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality Improvement (CMAQ) Program. The CMAQ program provides a flexible funding source to state and local governments for transportation projects and programs to help meet the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

ROGUE VALLEY COMMUTER LINE The weekday service provides five trips per day in each direction for $2 per boarding; children 6 and under ride free. Only exact fare is accepted as drivers do not carry change. Free transfers can be made to the JCT and RVTD routes with a valid RVCL transfer ticket within one hour of deboarding. For more information, call the JCT office at 541-474-5452, ext. 2. RVCL departs Grants Pass at Anne Basker Auditorium, 500 N.W. Sixth St., for Medford — 6:35 a.m., 7:35 a.m., 11:05 a.m., 3:15 p.m. and 4:15 p.m. RVCL departs Medford at the Rogue Valley Transit Front Street Station, 200 S. Front St., for Grants Pass — 7:45 a.m., 8:45 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 4:25 p.m. and 5:25 p.m. December 12, 2014

Rogue Valley Commuter Line

December 12, 2014


Bridge building continues on Fern Valley Interchange

Even with winter’s colder temperatures and wetter conditions, construction on the Fern Valley Interchange project continues unabated in and around Interstate 5 exit 24. The $72 million Fern Valley Interchange project’s size and complexity require more than two full construction seasons to complete.


Scheduled for completion in late September 2016, the Fern Valley Interchange project encompasses I-5, Oregon 99 and Fern Valley Road. In addition to the construction of Oregon’s first Diverging Diamond interchange, the project realigns North Phoenix Road between Peterbuilt Motors and Home Depot.

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Diverging Diamond Interchange The new interchange bridge is being constructed just north of the existing bridge, leaving most roadways west of the interchange relatively untouched. The Diverging Diamond interchange design has a narrow footprint, which helps avoid touching most businesses during and after the project. The design also helps keep traffic congestion to a minimum while increasing safety. “The Diverging Diamond design provides higher capacity to move traffic while, at the same time, reducing right of way needs,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Gary Leaming. “Drivers will move to the opposite side of the road to enter I-5 or to cross it. This movement reduces the number of signal phases a driver needs to clear.” Construction work is focused on two new bridges that span I-5 and Bear Creek. Prime contractor Hamilton

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Construction of Springfield set bridge beams over I-5, necessitating detours for interstate traffic. Nineteen concrete beams were placed over each direction of I-5. The beams used on the Fern Valley Interchange project are smaller than the ones used for the South Medford Interchange project in 2007. That project used same-day delivery to haul the massive beams in from the north. The beams used for the Fern Valley Interchange project had already been transported to the work site, where the beams remained stored until set in place. Bridge beams were set on the first half of the Bear Creek Bridge last October. Construction now is focused on tying the steel to the bridge deck in preparation for a spring deck pour. In 2015, construction will extend for the first time west of the Bear Creek Bridge toward Oregon 99 and Bolz Road. The precursor of that


construction work is the installation of a new water line for the City of Phoenix before roadwork construction can begin. Oregon 99 will also be widened to accommodate turn lanes, bike lanes and sidewalks. Grove Road Wet fall weather hindered the opening of Grove Road and the new North Phoenix Road alignment behind the Home Depot, even though much of the road construction and sidewalks are complete. Opening of those roadways in 2015 will allow more phases to kick in,


including the replacement of the existing northbound on-ramp with a temporary northbound on-ramp near La-Z-Boy Furniture. The closure of the existing North Phoenix Road in front of the Home Depot will follow. That phase will allow Hamilton Construction to essentially bridge the gap and connect the new I-5 bridge. “Once the temporary northbound on-ramp opens, the project focus in the interchange area is completing the new bridge spanning I-5,� said Leaming.

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3-D traffic simulation video “How will I negotiate the new interchange design?” That’s a frequent question ODOT hears from local drivers and Phoenix residents, including stakeholders who followed the project’s long development process. A 3-D traffic simulation completed in 2013 shows how the new crossing diamond interchange will operate. The simulation is featured on the project website. “The traffic simulation video makes it much easier to explain how the new Fern Valley interchange will operate,” said Leaming. “From our project outreach during the South Medford Interchange project, we learned that a picture or, in this case, a video, is worth a thousand words. Once people see it, people get it.” Work Zone Safety I-5 drivers are benefitting from many safety features in the Fern Valley Interchange project work zone. Beyond cones and barrels, the project employs TripCheck traffic cameras, the Rogue Valley’s first Incident Response vehicle, and transverse rumble strips that have been built into the temporary southbound off-ramp to notify drivers of the upcoming tight, 20 mph curve before reaching the signalized intersection. “The I-5 speed limit is lowered to 50 mph because of the narrow travel lanes and the close proximity of workers and vehicles entering and exiting the work zone,” said Leaming. “All of these tools are designed to reduce work zone crashes. December 12, 2014

Although designed to promote safety, relieve congestion and improve connectivity, state highway projects are often vilified as disruptive, headache-inducing challenges for drivers and local businesses. What most people don’t realize is that short-term, high-intensity construction projects like the Fern Valley Interchange are also major business generators. After winning the project bid, prime contractor Hamilton Construction of Springfield established accounts with nearly 40 suppliers and subcontractors in the Phoenix area. For example, Hamilton Construction purchases tires from Les Schwab Tire Center, water for its construction trailers from Mt. Shasta Spring Water and plywood from The Home Depot. Other local contractors and vendors supporting the project include Pacific Survey, Ledford Construction, Southern Oregon Concrete Pumping, Bullet Rental and Sales, Hilton Fuel/ Trucking, United Rentals Northwest, and Wilson Equipment Rentals and Sales. So far, Hamilton Construction has spent roughly $1.9 million on materials, such as concrete and rebar and about $260,000 on supplies. Additionally, construction workers eat at local restaurants like Si Casa Flores and sleep at local motels or RV parks, such as America’s Best Inn and Suites. “People have been real responsive to help us out,” said Hamilton Construction Project Manager Chris VanderPloeg. VanderPloeg estimates Hamilton Construction’s expenditures on the Fern Valley project will probably double before construction wraps up in 2016.


“Studies show that driver inattention is the biggest factor in work zone crashes.” Oregon State Police patrols the work zone. Traffic fines double in work zones, even though there are no workers present. Bear Creek Bridge and Greenway The Bear Creek Greenway crossing was temporarily replaced at grade with Fern Valley Road because of the bridge construction. Rectangular, rapid-flashing beacons are used so Fern Valley Road drivers


can see that a greenway user wants to cross the road. Greenway bicyclists and pedestrians are strongly encouraged to push the buttons to alert motorists, who should treat the flashing beacons as they would a standard crosswalk. “For everyone’s safety, people really need to pay attention in the work zone,” said Jackson County Special Projects Manager Jenna Stanke. “We’ve had instances where drivers haven’t stopped for Greenway users and users who haven’t bothered stopping at the crossing.”

December 12, 2014