ASHLAND — Work is scheduled to start tonight on a controversial "road diet" that will reduce North Main Street's four car lanes to two lanes with a center turn lane.
The road diet will create room for bike lanes on a stretch of North Main Street on Ashland's north side that runs from Helman Street to Jackson Road, which is near a railroad overpass.
A crew from the Portland-based contracting company SPM will work nights from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. on the project, said Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught.
The job of blasing off old road stripes and applying new ones will last an estimated five nights, although SPM has until Monday, Oct. 22, to finish the work, Faught said.
SPM will re-stripe the road in sections, he said.
The new lane configuration will be tested for one year to see whether it provides more room for bicyclists and pedestrians without causing major traffic woes.
Some residents have welcomed the chance to add bike lanes to North Main Street where it enters Ashland, but others have said it will lead to traffic congestion.
Some neighbors are concerned about plans to restrict left turns at three intersections along North Main Street, which they have said will cause more traffic in neighborhoods as drivers seek out intersections that allow left turns.
Faught said that car, bicycle and pedestrian data have been analyzed, and various measurements will continue to be taken, including bicycle and pedestrian counts and the time it takes to drive through the reconfigured area.
"We feel confident that this will work, but at the same time, we'll monitor it," he said.
The total cost for engineering and on-the-ground work for the Main Street lane reduction is an estimated $174,000.
The city of Ashland is paying $15,000, with Oregon Department of Transportation grants covering the remaining $159,000, Faught said.
The Ashland City Council voted to approve the plan in 2011 but first wanted a dangerous intersection fixed where Hersey Street and Wimer Street join North Main.
The $1 million intersection fix wrapped up at the end of September. Federal funding paid for $682,696 of the cost, with the city delaying repaving projects in other parts of town to cover the rest.
Crews realigned Hersey Street and Wimer Street so they would face each other directly as they join North Main.
Faught said the intersection was the most problematic in town, and he thanked affected property owners, drivers and residents for their cooperation during the intersection realignment.
To make room for the intersection realignment, neighboring business Colwell Chiropractic had to have a new parking area built farther away from Hersey Street.
The project also included putting overhead power lines underground and building new bike lanes on Hersey Street, and retaining walls and a new alley access from Lori Lane to North Main Street, according to city officials
Vickie Aldous is a reporter for the Ashland Daily Tidings. She can be reached at 541-479-8199 or firstname.lastname@example.org.