Construction began in November on the new Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center project being constructed two miles south of Ashland’s Interstate 5 Exit 14.
Prime contractor Wildish Standard Paving is building the facility’s parking lot, roadway and I-5 on-and off-ramps during the first phase of construction.
The project’s second phase will bid in 2016 and will include construction of the buildings and related facilities on the property, which is located east of northbound I-5.
Work began with construction of a service road from the property to Crowson Road. That service road will provide Wildish Standard Paving a more efficient and safer approach for construction needs versus driving southbound on I-5 and turning back northbound at Exit 6 to reach the property from I-5.
“The service road helps reduce impacts to I-5 drivers during construction,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher.
According to Fletcher, the project’s first phase is weather dependent, so work may be intermittent during the winter.
Replacement of the rest area spans two decades. Located on a six-percent grade, the old facility closed in 1997 due to safety concerns, following a series of crashes that included commercial trucks.
According to Fletcher, the new rest area won’t be used by commercial trucks. A restroom for commercial truck drivers was recently built at the Ashland Port of Entry station, located between Ashland Exits 14 and 19.
The Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center will serve as a signature destination for northbound travelers, those just needing to stretch their legs and visitors to Oregon wanting to learn more about the state’s tourism opportunities.
The project’s second phase will build two Cascadia-themed buildings. The Cascadia designs will add to the facility’s gateway look for visitors. The environmentally-friendly design and sustainable ethic will match that of the Welcome to Oregon sign at the California border as well as the new interchange aesthetics constructed at Ashland Exits 14 and 19.
The second phase of construction also features an outdoor kiosk, restrooms, picnic tables and an office for Oregon State Police troopers, who patrol southern Jackson County and the Siskiyou Pass. The project is scheduled for completion in 2017.
“The Welcome Center, co-located with the rest area and operated by Travel Oregon, will be a local, regional and statewide economic generator,” said ODOT Area Manager Art Anderson.
Local and state tourism officials are looking forward to project completion.
“The Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center project will serve as the gateway to Oregon,” said Travel Oregon CEO Todd Davidson. “The new facility will help enhance and inspire the journey of those visiting Oregon for their first time or for their 10th — opening their eyes to the wonders of our state. Tourism in Oregon is a $10.3 billion industry and opening a Welcome Center at such a significant entry point to the state will help drive economic growth.”
More than three million vehicles travel north on I-5 into Oregon each year. According to the Oregon Tourism Commission, each dollar spent operating a welcome center equals $41 in visitor spending.
“Welcome centers have long been recognized as an important element in a local area’s hospitality and tourism tool kit, and this should be no exception,” said Medford-Jackson County Chamber Executive Director Brad Hicks. “Additionally, this facility will help the chamber and our visitor department, Travel Medford, fulfill its goals of enhancing the brand of the Rogue Valley, attracting newcomers, encouraging longer hotel stays, and increasing visitor spending in all of our area’s hospitality industry businesses.”