Prime contractor Wildish Standard Paving has nearly finished building a service road from Crowson Road for the Siskiyou Rest Area and Welcome Center, located two miles south of Ashland‘s Interstate 5 Exit 14.
The service road will be used to facilitate the next phase of construction. Rock and other materials will be brought in on the service road to build the new facility’s parking lot as well as the I-5 on- and off-ramps.
“The service road is crucial to the construction and operation phases,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher. “Construction work will really kick into high gear with the transition to summer weather.”
The service road was cut east of the Crowson Road I-5 overpass. Fletcher said while it may appear too narrow for construction work, the road is capable of accommodating trucks hauling rock and other materials. The service road also spans an existing box culvert for Tolman Creek. Over the spring, concrete retaining walls were constructed. The northbound I-5 slow lane is temporarily closed so additional supports could be tied into the earthen highway shoulder.
The new service road will be gated when completed. It is designed to provide an entry for staff and emergency services at the rest area and welcome center, eliminating the need to drive south on I-5 to nearly the Siskiyou Summit before returning north to access the facility.
Inside the perimeter of the rest area/welcome center, Wildish is moving earth on site to place in the fill embankments. That work includes stabilizing the existing ground as well as building it up to get the correct elevation.
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 6-percent grade, closed in 1997 for public safety, following a series of crashes that involved commercial trucks.
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 Fletcher.
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.