Almost 45 years ago, former Oregon Transportation Commission Chairman Glenn Jackson of Medford dedicated Interstate 5 at the Barnett Road interchange. So it was fitting that another OTC Chair from Medford, Stuart Foster, led a group of local, city and state officials during the May 23 dedication of the largest state highway project to begin construction in the Rogue Valley — the $70 million South Medford Interchange Project — since I-5 was built.
Foster, Medford Mayor Gary Wheeler, the chairs of the Rogue Valley Area Commission on Transportation and the Transportation Advocacy Committee were among a group of more than 40 local stakeholders at the groundbreaking ceremony.
After seven years of development, the $70 million project moves into the construction phase.
Not surprisingly, the population growth in the Medford area was unforeseen when the interchange was built in 1963.
“Medford had about 30,000 people then and it was a rural community. Now, it’s an urban community and it’s time to build an urban interchange,” said OTC Chairman Stuart Foster. “This interchange will allow traffic to move better in south Medford, and allow Medford to grow as a community and as a regional commercial center.”
Wildish Standard Paving of Eugene is the prime contractor for the project, which may take three to four years to construct.
A joint venture with the City of Medford, the project is designed to improve safety and congestion. The centerpiece of the project is construction of a new interchange 1,900 feet south of the existing Barnett Road exit (exit 27). The new interchange design is called a single point urban interchange (SPUI), which handles large volumes of traffic.
A video is available on the project Web site, www.smedfordinterchange.org, which shows how the SPUI operates.
The City of Medford is contributing $15 million toward the project.
“This is quite simply the largest project many of us have ever worked on,” said ODOT Area Manager Art Anderson.