Medford motorists have a new alternative to gas up their vehicles.

Medford motorists have a new alternative to gas up their vehicles.

The 14-pump south Medford Fred Meyer fueling station now is open at the corner of Stewart Avenue and Center Drive.

"I don't have definitive numbers, but it does bring traffic to the store," said Fred Sowers, store director. "It's like opening up another department or another category of merchandise."

The opening coincides with the revamping of the South Medford freeway interchange, which will feed southbound Interstate 5 travelers from Center Drive instead of Stewart Avenue.

The Portland-based unit of Kroger Co. spent more than $1 million on the project and has hired 16 employees, managed by Dan Everly, to operate the station between 6 a.m. and 11 p.m.

At midday Tuesday, the listed price for a gallon of unleaded regular gas was $1.95.

Fred Meyer sought approval from the Medford Urban Renewal Agency for an exemption to build a gas station in 2003. The company hoped to build the gas station in conjunction with a major store remodel five years ago, but the plan was put on hold until the freeway interchange was revamped.

"We've been looking at putting this in for a long time," Sowers said. "We were shooting to get the fuel center in before the holidays."

The center is served by two large underground tanks, one holding 20,000 gallons of unleaded gas. Sowers likened the second tank to a big Tylenol capsule with compartments holding 10,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 8,000 gallons of premium gas.

The new fuel stop is Fred Meyer's first in Jackson County, the 17th in Oregon and 55th in four Northwest states, said corporate spokeswoman Melinda Merrill. "We're always looking at our store sites to determine whether they're a good location for a fuel center."

The most recent additions were in Gresham, two weeks ago, and Bonney Lake, Wash., in November. Two more are scheduled to open this spring in Federal Way and Mill Creek, both in Washington state. In all, Merrill said, 10 stations are scheduled to open in 2009.

Sowers said a fuel station could open at the north Medford store as early as next year. He was the store director in Grants Pass when Fred Meyer began selling gas there in 2002.

"I wouldn't call it a surge so much, but it gradually helped the business," he said.

He said customers with Fred Meyer rewards cards will get a 10-cent-per-gallon discount through Feb. 1. The normal loyalty card discount is 3 cents.

Reach reporter Greg Stiles at 776-4463 or e-mail business@mailtribune.com.