ODOT completed a federally-required Final Environmental Impact Statement (FEIS) that is necessary before construction can begin on the first two phases of the Oregon 62: I-5 to Dutton Road project.
After nearly nine years of planning and public meetings, the Oregon 62: I-5 to Dutton Road project team achieved a major milestone last month — completion of the federally-required Final Environmental Impact Statement and Record of Decision.
“Both documents are necessary before construction can begin,” said ODOT Project Leader Dick Leever. “We’re now looking forward to 2014 when the first phase of construction goes to bid.”
The $120 million multimodal project is designed to increase capacity and improve safety along Crater Lake Highway. Some sections of the corridor see higher volumes of traffic than Interstate 5. Higher crash data on some Oregon 62 intersections, primarily between I-5 and Delta Waters Road, are another safety concern.
“The corridor is a critical business connection, locally and regionally, for freight, tourism and commuters,” said Leever. “The Crater Lake Highway currently exceeds capacity standards and future growth is expected to significantly increase traffic volumes.”
The 4.5-mile expressway would start with three lanes of eastbound traffic at Poplar and Bullock Roads near Fred Meyer. Through traffic would turn left on a small directional interchange located across from Whittle Road. Traffic would then travel along a four-lane expressway on the east side of the Medford Airport, span over Vilas Road, and connect to the existing Crater Lake Highway near Corey Road.
Traffic destined for commercial centers such as Costco, Lowe’s and Safeway would continue as is done today. The addition of sidewalks and transit-related enhancements are planned on the existing Oregon 62 corridor.
One of the project’s biggest features will be a four-lane, access-controlled expressway that provides faster travel and improved safety within and throughout the region.
“The project’s first phase should take two construction seasons to complete,” Leever said. “Phase two is planned to go to bid in 2016 and should take another two years to complete.
“Motorists won’t be driving on the new expressway until 2018.”
While most of the work will occur off existing roadways when the first phase of construction begins, the section of Oregon 62 between Poplar Drive and Delta Waters Road will be a challenge. ODOT plans to take advantage of a wide section of right of way on the south side of that section of highway.
“Much of the work will be done at night or behind solid barrier,” said Leever. “Project staging will be important to keep traffic moving and business accesses open. For example, traffic may be pushed over to one side of the roadway with construction work occurring behind a concrete barrier. Once that work is finished, traffic would be switched over to the other side of the highway, so the contractor can complete the second half.”
According to Leever, a major concern voiced during the public outreach was how the entire project, estimated to cost $400 million, would impact individual properties along Oregon 62. Both the northern portion of the corridor from Corey Road to Dutton Road and the southern portion from I-5 to Poplar Drive are planned for future construction. However, there is no funding currently programmed for these future phases.
“Given the transportation budgets of today and the forecast, we’re really thankful we have the funds to begin construction on the first two phases of the project,” said Leever.
Following the release of the draft environmental document in 2012, the project’s engineering team fine-tuned the conceptual design and found $15 million in savings. The design changes included:
- Building a short bridge over Commerce Drive to access the properties located along the east side of the Medford Airport instead of a series of streets from Vilas Road;
- Replacing the planned connection of Justice Road with East Gregory Road with an emergency vehicle access from the expressway; and
- Modifying the bridge over Vilas Road to accept a tighter diamond interchange design when on- and off-ramps are eventually constructed.