Prime contractor Wildish Standard Paving is nearly finished with the first phase for the Siskiyou Rest Area and Welcome Center project being constructed two miles south of Ashland‘s Interstate 5 Exit 14.
“The project is really starting to take shape,” said ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher. “The ramps, the roads and parking area are becoming more defined as the rock base is added.”
The first phase is scheduled for completion this year, when the roads and ramps will be paved and prepped for the second phase, constructing the main buildings of the rest area facility. Construction work on I-5 that required a northbound lane closure for several months this past summer is completed as well. ODOT scheduled the work to ensure all lanes are open on and around the Siskiyou Pass during the winter.
Constructed east of the Crowson Road I-5 overpass, the service road is crucial for construction as well as for daily operations.
Fletcher said the narrow road, which spans an existing box culvert for Tolman Creek, accommodates trucks hauling rock and other materials. The service road’s concrete retaining walls were constructed last spring.
Once completed, the service road will be gated. It is designed to provide an entry for staff and emergency services at the rest area and welcome center, eliminating the need for staff to drive south on I-5 before returning north to access the facility.
Emergency service vehicles will also be able to access the facility via an I-5 crossover.
The development of a replacement I-5 rest area spans three decades. The previous rest area closed in 1997 for public safety, following a series of crashes that involved commercial trucks. The previous rest area was located on a 6-percent grade.
Commercial trucks are now directed to use newly built restroom facilities at the Ashland Port of Entry 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,” said Fletcher.
The new rest area and welcome center will serve as a safety destination for northbound visitors. 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 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 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.