Widening Foothill Road — as part of long-range efforts to connect Phoenix with Eagle Point — is a priority for the city of Medford, the City Council agreed Thursday.
The council agreed to look at borrowing $10 million in low-interest funds from the Oregon Transportation Infrastructure Bank along with committing another $3 million in federal money for a portion of the project.
The $13 million would pay for widening of Foothill Road from McAndrews Road to Hillcrest Road to four lanes, with a center turn lane, for a distance of about a mile.
Ultimately, the city, Jackson County and local cities want to create a major thoroughfare in the future along Foothill Road to provide another major route other than Interstate 5.
"We need to make it a priority," said Al Densmore, a former Medford councilor who is with the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization.
The city would construct other portions of the road as money from grants and other sources becomes available. In Medford, the roadway already has been upgraded to four lanes on a two-mile stretch from just south of Barnett Road to Hillcrest. Most of Foothill Road is currently a winding, two-lane country road.
Densmore said the need will become more apparent after the $72 million Fern Valley interchange at Phoenix is built over the next two years.
Densmore said that if the city invests in the widening project, it will help attract more federal and state dollars in the future because it shows the city is committed to the project.
Cory Crebbin, Medford public works director, said the city would pay the loan off in 10 years using system development charges. The current interest rate from the transportation bank is 1.88 percent, and the city would make payments of $1.1 million per year.
Councilor Dick Gordon said the city would spend a lot of its system development charges toward the widening effort.
"Are we doing this and sacrificing other projects?" he asked.
Densmore said he didn't think it would affect funding of the bigger regional projects being looked at by the Metropolitan Planning Organization.
He said the federal government is considering budgeting up to $300 billion toward road projects. If Medford shows a commitment to Foothill Road, it could open the door for additional funding in the future, he said.
However, Crebbin said, it's possible that some projects within Medford might be affected by diverting that many dollars of system development charges over a 10-year period.
Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.