for the Mail Tribune

for the Mail Tribune

A price tag of $562 million is estimated for Rogue Valley transportation projects over the next 25 years in a draft plan prepared to meet federal requirements and to coordinate regional efforts.

Costs vary from $103 million to purchase the right of way for the Oregon Department of Transportation's revamping of the Highway 62 corridor to $199,000 for a street sweeper for Jacksonville and $58,000 for bike lanes and sidewalk improvements to Wagner Street in Talent. Funding sources for $305 million of the projects have been identified.

"It's part of a much larger funding issue that's begging to be more understood," said Medford City Councilman Al Densmore, referring to the remaining $257 million in unfunded projects. Densmore represents the city on the Metropolitan Planning Organization Policy Committee.

"The state hasn't raised the gas tax since the early 1990s," he said.

Reductions of single-occupancy vehicle trips is a goal in the plan. Other goals include safety and security, use of new technologies to aid travel and boosting the economy by investing in transportation projects.

"The fact that we have adopted policies to increase the amount of bike lanes and sidewalks and increased housing and employment density along specific corridors in the metropolitan area helps reach that goal," said Dan Moore, principal planner with the Rogue Valley Council of Governments.

RVCOG prepared the Draft 2009-2034 Regional Transportation Plan for the MPO, which is made up of representatives from Ashland, Central Point, Eagle Point, Jacksonville, Medford, Phoenix, Talent, White City, Jackson County, the Rogue Valley Transportation District and ODOT. The document updates a previous plan.

Continued support of RVTD is called for in the plan. Since 2002, the MPO has distributed 50 percent of its discretionary federal Surface Transportation Program funds to the regional bus service. That amount will be $666,000 in 2010, rising to $734,000 by 2013.

Impacts from the road and transit system projects on air quality, wildlife, wetlands, historic features and archaeological sites are detailed in the plan. Salmon threatened by work on the Bear Creek Bridge at North Mountain Avenue in Ashland, game trails from Upton to Sinclair roads in Central Point and vernal pools along Foothill Road near White City are on a lengthy list that details where projects would affect the environment.

The plan notes three areas where traffic congestion is severe: Interstate 5 interchanges at Highway 62 and Barnett Road and Fern Valley Road between Highway 99 and I-5 in Phoenix. The document notes that Barnett Road interchange improvements are under way and that Fern Valley improvements are scheduled for the near future.

Written public comment on the plan should be submitted by noon March 19. A public hearing will be held at 2 p.m. March 24 at the RVCOG offices, 155 N. First St., Central Point. The policy committee will then incorporate changes it desires and adopt the document. A copy of the plan and additional information is available at www.rvmpo.org.

"We really have a lot of work to do," said Densmore. "We have major issues to deal with. There are many ways to get people around. Mobility is really the larger question."

Tony Boom is a freelance writer living in Ashland. Reach him at tboom8929@charter.net.