According to ODOT Project Manager Tim Fletcher, work on the first phase of the Siskiyou Rest Area and Welcome Center project is substantially complete. The new facility is being constructed near Interstate 5 milepost 12, about two miles south of Ashland’s Exit 14 and two miles north of the former rest area, which was located on a six-percent downgrade.
The old rest area was closed in 1997 for public safety, following a series of commercial truck crashes.
Construction on the new rest area began in November 2015.
Prime contractor Wildish Standard Paving of Eugene focused on earthwork, paving and drainage during the project’s first phase. The work included grading and paving the Interstate 5 ramps as well as construction of the facility’s parking lot, driveways and a service road from Crowson Road that is being used to deliver materials during construction and, later, used for daily operational needs, including staff and deliveries.
“All the earth work is finished,” said Fletcher. “The roadways and parking lot still need to be paved with asphalt as weather allows.”
The first phase cost $6.3 million. The project’s second phase is scheduled to go to bid in 2017.
“The reason we broke the project into two phases was to accommodate a contractor more familiar with building construction than road construction,” said Fletcher. “We also expect to see cost savings as a result of managing two separate contracts.”
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, which add to the gateway theme 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 city of Ashland will provide potable water and sewer service to the facility. The Talent Irrigation District will provide water for landscaping.
More than three million vehicles travel north on I-5 into Oregon each year, with Californians being the state’s main visitors. 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.”
Safety and Enforcement
The second phase of construction will also build an office for Oregon State Police troopers patrolling southern Jackson County and the Siskiyou Pass.
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. They will not be permitted to stop at the new rest area.
“Separating restroom facilities for commercial trucks and the general public is another safety improvement,” said Fletcher.
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 over Tolman Creek, has accommodated trucks bringing building materials to the job site.
Once the project is completed, the service road will be gated. It is designed to provide an entry point for staff, eliminating the need to drive south on I-5 before returning north to access the facility.
Emergency service vehicles will access the facility via the service road as well as at an I-5 crossover, which is being constructed as part of the current I-5 barrier project between Ashland and Medford.