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Punch list work, landscaping underway at Fern Valley Interchange

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Following two years of construction, Phoenix celebrated the Fern Valley Interchange project with a late October ribbon-cutting ceremony in the parking lot of The Shoppes at Exit 24 next to Interstate 5.

“The Phoenix interchange is another outstanding transportation investment in the Rogue Valley,” said ODOT Region Manager Frank Reading. “Nearly three quarters of a billion dollars in state transportation projects have been invested in Jackson and Josephine counties since 2001.”

Reading called the $72 million Fern Valley Interchange project a legacy investment for future generations.

“This project not only improves congestion and safety for vehicles but also upgrades facilities for bikes and pedestrians,” said Reading.

Jackson County Greenway Coordinator Jenna Marmon agreed.

“ODOT made it a priority to keep the Bear Creek Greenway connected during construction,” said Marmon.

Prime contractor Hamilton Construction of Springfield continues work on punch list items. New sidewalk at the west end of Fern Valley Road will connect to the top of the interchange, so pedestrians won’t have to walk along Grove Road to the Home Depot.

ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher said now is the prime time for landscaping and the beginning of the plant establishment period.

Natural Colors
Aesthetic features inspired by the natural colors surrounding Phoenix, the hills and grasses, are incorporated in the Fern Valley Interchange project. The use of concrete form liners and different stains and paints presented opportunities to design a bridge with a local look instead of the drab concrete structures commonly built when I-5 was first constructed.

The project team filtered through several designs with the help of Medford landscape architect John Galbraith, before selecting aesthetics for the Fern Valley Road bridges that span I-5 and Bear Creek at Exit 24.

New Street Names
Some roadways in the project area were renamed. Some Roadways in the project area were renamed. ODOT met with Phoenix officials several years ago to coordinate the changes recommended by emergency service agencies.

• North Phoenix Road carries through the overpass from the north to the west side of I-5 and terminates at the Oregon 99 signal across from Ray’s Market.

• Fern Valley Road appears only on the east side of I-5, terminating at a cul-de-sac joined by Pear Tree Lane.

• Grove Road replaces South Phoenix Road in the project’s southeast area, extending across Fern Valley Road through the traffic signal near Home Depot before reaching a dead end behind the La-Z-Boy furniture store.

Diverging Diamond Design
The first Diverging Diamond interchange in the state was approved by the community-based teams to ‘thread the needle’ between the commercial developments at
I-5 Exit 24.

Reducing the project footprint also reduced the project’s impact on surrounding businesses and right of way costs.

Design History
The Fern Valley Interchange had experienced traffic congestion throughout the day, but was much worse during the morning and evening commutes. Existing and proposed development along the east side of I-5, as well as development growth within the Rogue Valley, reduced the interchange’s capacity and caused safety concerns.

The project’s design phase began in 2004. After years of public debate and comment, including the weighing of various design alternatives, The Fern Valley Through design alternative was eliminated in 2009 because it would have an adverse impact on nearby farm land. The Project Development Team later unanimously supported the North Phoenix Through build alternative as part of the federally-required environmental assessment.

A $25 million investment from the 2009 Oregon Jobs and Transportation Act — a funding package based in part on increases in truck weight-mile flat fees, registration fees, road use assessment fees, and heavy vehicle trip permit fees — was the last piece of the Fern Valley Interchange project’s funding puzzle.

That same year, the Phoenix Planning Commission and Phoenix City Council approved an Interchange Area Management Plan for I-5 Exit 24. The IAMP is a requirement of the Oregon Transportation Commission, which sets policy for ODOT.

In 2012, the ODOT project team collaborated with a consortium of private contractors to develop construction methods best suited for the challenges ahead of this project, such as the close proximity of the new bridge ramps to the existing ramps.

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