Before the first bulldozers cut the ground on a southern Oregon state highway project, Dennis Steers is out ahead, pounding the pavement, meeting with property owners and the general public to inform of the work ahead.
As the agency’s Public Service Representative, Steers works as a liaison between the prime contractor, ODOT inspectors and anyone affected by the project.
This summer, Steers has traveled throughout Jackson and Josephine counties, helping share information about bridge, paving and interchange construction projects.
“I try to put myself in the shoes of the people affected by the project,” Steers said. “You have to look at the big picture – what the contractor is working to accomplish and the construction impacts to the public.”
Steers’ top priority is currently the Interstate 5 bridge project for Ashland exits 14 and 19. The Green Springs Highway Bridge at I-5 exit 14 is being widened from the center out to accommodate higher traffic volumes and improved bicycle and pedestrian safety. The South Valley View Road Bridge at I-5 exit 19 will be entirely replaced with a new, wider structure.
According to Steers, heavy construction is already underway with the overall project expected to be completed by mid-2012.
Steers established regular public meetings at each Ashland I-5 interchange so residents and businesses can ask project questions and have their concerns addressed quickly.
“These meetings typically occur immediately after the project meeting between the contractor and ODOT inspectors,” Steers said. “This ensures that we have fresh, accurate news to share during the public meetings.”
Steers joined ODOT in 2009, replacing Bill Boyett, who served nearly a decade as the public liaison for the department on road projects in Grants Pass, Gold Hill, Jacksonville, Ashland and Medford.
Raised in the Klamath Falls area, Steers worked for private contractors in southern Oregon before taking on this new challenge.
“The best thing about this position is meeting people on their home turf,” said Steers. “My parents run a family business, so I understand how important it is to know what is happening outside your front door.
“A lot of things can change a contractor’s schedule – weather, equipment or staffing – so, my goal is to provide the best information available now.”