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MailTribune.com
  • Highland Drive residents call for safety measures

    Traffic increase after interchange project has some Highland Drive residents calling for safety measures
  • A40 percent increase in traffic along a short section of Highland Drive has funneled more vehicles onto residential streets since the south Medford interchange opened in 2009.
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  • A40 percent increase in traffic along a short section of Highland Drive has funneled more vehicles onto residential streets since the south Medford interchange opened in 2009.
    "Our whole neighborhood is deteriorating because of the traffic problems," said Barbara Griffin, who lives near Highland and East Main Street. "Who do we blame?"
    According to the city's most recent traffic counts, the number of vehicles traversing Highland Drive daily from Barnett Road to Greenwood Street has jumped from 10,400 vehicles on average in 2006 to 14,600 in 2012. There has been a 13 percent increase along Highland from Siskiyou Boulevard to Barneburg Road and a 29 percent increase from Barneburg to East Main Street.
    Barneburg traffic counts have increased 19 percent during the same time period.
    Griffin was one of many residents who opposed the idea of the new south Medford interchange dumping traffic onto Highland, which feeds into east Medford neighborhoods.
    Medford police routinely place traffic vans on Highland and Siskiyou to catch speeders.
    In the early 2000s, residents received assurances from officials that the new interchange wouldn't create a dramatic increase in traffic, Griffin said.
    Since the interchange was built, Griffin said she has complained to the city about the possible danger children face when using a crosswalk across East Main at Keene Way Drive.
    Griffin said drivers appear to be traveling faster than they used to along this stretch.
    "For the safety of the children and pedestrians, why not have 25 mph speed limit instead of 30?" she said. "When I see many of the drivers, I have to wave to let them know I'm in the crosswalk."
    Griffin also suggests installing better signage at the corner of Barnett Road and Highland Avenue to direct travelers to the downtown.
    She said she is concerned that many visitors who come off the freeway automatically head north on Highland, potentially getting lost in residential streets.
    During rush hour, Griffin said she's noticed that cars back up hundreds of feet at the stop sign on Highland at East Main.
    "The traffic's going faster on East Main, so there's a big chance of someone being hit," she said.
    Griffin has three boxes full of documents from the East Medford Neighborhood Association related to the opposition of the south Medford interchange. She said that recently she's been looking for a specific document from the Oregon Department of Transportation or the city of Medford that describes where signs were supposed to be placed to direct traffic off Highland and onto Barnett.
    Cory Crebbin, director of Medford Public Works, said he sees nothing out of the ordinary in the traffic counts and said it would be difficult to attribute any increases to a single cause.
    "I could not say it is due to the new interchange, but maybe the new Walmart is also causing more traffic," he said. "To say one thing caused it is a stretch."
    Local residents could be using Highland more to get to the shopping area around Walmart, he said.
    For instance, Center Drive, next to the Walmart, has seen a doubling in traffic, from about 6,000 to 12,000 vehicles a day, he said.
    Crebbin said many streets in Medford have seen decreases in traffic during the economic downturn.
    "If you look at Crater Lake Avenue, it has dropped by about 1,000 trips," he said.
    Also, East Main Street where it intersects with Highland has seen declines in vehicle volumes, according to the traffic study.
    A stretch of East Main from Highland to the west has dropped from 9,400 vehicles a day on average to 9,200 in 2012. Even though more drivers use Highland, fewer drivers use East Main, according to the study.
    Crebbin said part of the increase in traffic at Highland and Barnett is likely due to the new Medical Eye Center and the People's Bank.
    After Greenwood Street, traffic volumes on Highland jumped to 13,200 cars in 2012 compared with 11,300 in 2006, a 17 percent increase.
    Even with the increases in traffic, Highland isn't even close to surpassing the number of vehicles that could be handled by the roadway, Crebbin said.
    Crebbin said the city would like to install sidewalks throughout the city, but lacks the funds.
    However, over the past seven years, the city has invested $7 million in sidewalks near schools.
    The city is designing a new pedestrian crosswalk near Greenwood Street into Bear Creek Park, Crebbin said.
    Any residents who have suggestions about traffic signs, lights or some other street improvements can make a request with the city, he said.
    Construction worker Richard Rich has lived in his home off Highland for 42 years and was a supporter of the south Medford interchange. In fact, he helped build it.
    "I was all for it because it was work," the 42-year-old said.
    But he said the increase in traffic has alarmed him, and he said it was noticeable as soon as the interchange opened.
    "It's horrible," he said. "At 5 p.m., I can't even cross the street to get the mail."
    Rich said Highland lacks sidewalks, which is a concern since the skatepark is so close and children walk up and down from nearby neighborhoods.
    "At some point, somebody is going to have to put pressure on the city to do something here," he said.
    Another resident, Robert Glick, moved into his house off Highland 13 years ago, before the interchange was started.
    "The traffic has increased a lot," said the 69-year-old resident. "The speed of the traffic is astounding."
    Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476, or email dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.
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