Winter construction on the Siskiyou Rest Area and Welcome Center, located two miles south of Ashland‘s Interstate 5 Exit 14, was steady as prime contractor Wildish Standard Paving builds the facility’s parking lot, service road and I-5 on-and off-ramps in the first phase of construction.
“Despite the wet weather, the project has shown progress,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher. “The focus has been on constructing the service road that runs south into the property.”
Wildish Standard Paving is excavating an service road, which runs adjacent to the I-5 bridge spanning Crowson Road, and building a retaining wall to the south. The service road will act as the gateway for deliveries of construction materials. When paved and complete, the new service road will be gated, providing an entry for rest area and welcome center staff, who would otherwise have to drive south to nearly the top of Siskiyou Summit and return north on I-5 to access the property.
According to Fletcher, the second phase of the project will bid later this year. The second phase includes construction of the rest area and welcome center buildings as well as related facilities.
The development of the replacement rest area spans three decades.
The previous rest area, sited on a six-percent grade, closed in 1997 for public safety, following a series of crashes that involved commercial trucks.
“I recently gave a presentation to the Ashland Lions Club and many members remembered the hazards associated with the old rest area,” said ODOT Public Information Officer Gary Leaming. “They recalled the rest area was small, had short ramps and the smell of hot brakes regularly hung in the air.”
Commercial trucks have already been directed to use new restroom facilities built at the Ashland Port of Entry station that is located on northbound I-5 between Ashland Exits 14 and 19.
“Separating restroom facilities for commercial trucks and the general public is another safety improvement the Siskiyou Safety Rest Area and Welcome Center offers,” said Leaming.
The new rest area and welcome center will serve as a signature destination for northbound visitors to Oregon. Two Cascadia-themed buildings will add to the facility’s gateway design, which matches the environmentally-friendly sustainable look of the Welcome to Oregon sign at the California border as well as new interchange aesthetics improvements that were incorporated into bridge projects at Ashland Exits 14 and 19.
The second phase of construction will add an outdoor kiosk, restrooms, picnic tables and an office for Oregon State Police troopers patrolling southern Jackson County and the Siskiyou Pass.
The construction project is scheduled for completion in early 2018.
“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 returning to Oregon or visiting our state for the first time.
“Oregon tourism is a $10.3 billion industry. 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.