New J'ville Highway is quicker, easier than old route

As I was sitting at the stop light on Highway 99 looking at the new shopping center construction trying to figure out how one will access it, I noticed the street sign said "Jacksonville Highway." Huh? That can't be true. Not even in Medford, which has to be the world capital of disconnected streets, can that be true. It's miles to the real Jacksonville Highway from there with no way to connect them without bulldozing down hundreds of homes and businesses and making a whole new street. It can be part of Crater Lake Highway or Rossanley or Joe Smith Street, but no way can it be Jacksonville Highway. What's with that — mass confusion?

— Tricia P., Medford

No, Tricia, your eyes are not deceiving you. It's true, that is Jacksonville Highway intersecting with Highway 99 next to the new REI and soon-to-open Trader Joe's.

Before we attempt to explain why, we should give you a little history, Tricia. In the old days, before Interstate 5 cut through the valley, Highway 238 or Jacksonville Highway was the extension of Medford's West Main Street. When transportation officials improved the intersection at Crater Lake Highway and Rossanley Drive a decade ago, the highway was relocated.

Why, you might ask?

Well, imagine that you are on Interstate 5, looking for the easiest route to Jacksonville. If you got off the freeway at Crater Lake Highway, just think how many traffic lights you would cross to get to Main Street. Then, think about how many lights you would go through as you traveled west on Main Street.

Transportation officials came up with what they thought was a better idea: Get off Interstate 5, cross through a few lights and then you're up to highway speeds on Rossanley as it goes out of Medford. When you get to Hanley Road, turn left and you're still on a highway that connects to old Highway 238 where it crosses West Main Street.

We would suspect that it would be a lot quicker for a motorist to traverse the new Highway 238 route than the old one.

Just to be sure, we checked in with Gary Leaming, spokesman for the Oregon Department of Transportation. He said the new route has fewer traffic signals, higher speed limits and less urban traffic than the old route.

We also calculated the distance for you. By our reckoning the old route down Central Avenue to Main Street where it eventually connects with Highway 238 is 5.5 miles. The new route on Rossanley Drive to Hanley Road is 5.6 miles.

Tricia, we'd like to suggest that some day, when you have the time, that you time both routes to see which is quicker.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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