PHOENIX — After a decade of planning, the $72 million Fern Valley interchange replacement project is heading into two years of construction.

PHOENIX — After a decade of planning, the $72 million Fern Valley interchange replacement project is heading into two years of construction.

The Oregon Department of Transportation will discuss the project in an open house from 4 to 7 p.m. today at the Journey Church, at The Shoppes at Exit 24 shopping center.

ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said Coburg-based contractor Hamilton Construction, which offered a winning bid of $34.5 million, would soon be positioning crews to start working on the project in phases.

While motorists have seen plenty of traffic detours, Leaming said work near the Interstate 5 interchange has largely been related to relocating utilities and other non-roadwork.

"There's stuff going on but it's been mostly utility work. Avista and Pacific Power are moving lines out of the way so everything is good to go when the contractor comes through," Leaming said.

Leaming said today's open house would give residents a chance to ask questions and learn when various parts of the project would occur.

An office in The Shoppes at Exit 24 will be opened to allow community members to ask questions or report concerns during construction of the new interchange.

Leaming said a rough estimate of the project calendar would be provided during the open house. The tentative schedule for the interchange work includes:

Winter and spring 2014: east side of the freeway including North Phoenix Road and construction of parts of Grove Road near Home Depot. Summer 2014: replacement of Bear Creek bridge and completion of work in Luman Road and southwest area of the interchange; construction of a large drainage pipe across the freeway (to include a 25-day lane reduction) and temporary ramps on the north side of the freeway Early 2015: new interchange bridge completed. 2016: demolition of the old interchange and completion of Bear Creek bridge, Luman intersection and related upgrades to the Highway 99 area.

While state officials and contractors plan to communicate with the public, advertise detours and to complete the work in phases, Leaming said, the scope of the project would inevitably cause some traffic delays.

"This is a really big project with a very large footprint. It's going to affect drivers no matter what, so when they drive through the area, they need to factor in that they will be driving through a construction zone," he said.

"The main thing is just to plan ahead. Don't leave late and get upset when you're stuck in traffic. Know that our contractor is going to be working there for the next couple of years."

To help motorists plan ahead, Leaming said a half-dozen cameras will be added to the state's Trip Check website ( to show progress as well as traffic conditions in the area.

People who are unable to attend the open house may obtain project details online at or may email Leaming at to be added to a mailing list for project updates.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at