Officials: Lozier Lane upgrade worth expense

The improvements would make it more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly

A $7.5 million upgrade of a very unsafe stretch of Lozier Lane in west Medford will require rights-of-way through 73 properties, nudging as close as 15 feet to some front doors.

"It is expensive," said Mike Kuntz, Jackson County engineer. "We're talking about very tight quarters."

It may be expensive for less than a mile of roadway, but the project will make the Lozier a lot safer. On Friday night, a hit-and-run driver sped away after striking three juveniles, ages 11, 15 and 16, sending two to the hospital. No sidewalks and no shoulder are located along this stretch of Lozier Lane, forcing pedestrians, cyclists and those in wheelchairs to use the roadway.

The Lozier upgrade project, which is a joint effort of the county, the city of Medford, the state and the federal government, is closer to securing all the dollars necessary to get started.

The stretch of roadway, eight-tenths of a mile in length, is between Main Street and West Stewart Avenue.

The Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization has identified almost $500,000 in federal Surface Transportation Program dollars and $3.3 million in Congestion Mitigation Air Quality dollars for the project so far.

Jackson County will provide an additional required matching grant of $780,000, Kuntz said. Transportation officials plan to continue searching for other dollars over the next year, though design and environmental work can begin sooner.

Once the project has been approved by Medford, the county and the state, Kuntz said design and environmental work can begin.

In about a year, after the environmental work is completed, negotiations can begin to secure rights-of-way.

Lozier Lane is a key thoroughfare in long-range plans to create an improved route for north-south traffic on the west side of Medford.

Motorists in south Medford can reach the north side of town from Stewart Avenue by following Lozier Lane, crossing Main Street onto North Ross Lane and following that to Highway 238, which links to Highway 62 and the north Medford freeway interchange. Renovating Lozier Lane will improve that route for motorists as well as cyclists and pedestrians, planners say.

The city also plans to eventually connect Lozier Lane to Cunningham Avenue, which is adjacent to South Medford High School, creating a more direct path for school traffic.

Construction on the Main Street to Stewart Avenue portion of the project could begin in 2015 or 2016, Kuntz said.

Right now, the road is two lanes, with only about a foot of shoulder at best on either side before a ditch.

"We have seen motorized wheelchairs in the travel lane," he said. "The problem is there is no place for them to go."

Once completed, the road will be similar to North Ross Lane, with two traffic lanes, a turn lane in the center and bike lanes on the side as well as sidewalks. The road is designed to accommodate traffic growth over the next 20 years.

The county has a 40-foot right-of-way along the roadway, but needs 60 feet for the improvements.

Kuntz said the land constraints make it a more difficult project to build. He said no houses should have to be removed, though the right-of-way would come close to front doors.

Utilities also would have to be moved as part of the project.

Kuntz said upgrading Lozier is expensive, in part because of the cost of right-of-way acquisitions.

Improvements to North Ross Lane cost $6 million, though $1 million was for an upgrade to a Medford Water Commission line. Ross Lane was completed in 2011.

Kuntz said right-of-way was required from about 40 property owners on Ross Lane compared with 73 on Lozier.

Once the project is completed, Lozier would be transferred from county control to the city, he said.

Today, some sections of the road are within the city's boundaries and some outside in the urban growth boundary.

Councilman Al Densmore said the improvements to Lozier would make it more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly.

"It will be a much safer road," he said.

Over the next few months, transportation officials expect proposals will be sought for designing the project.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com.


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