CENTRAL POINT — Interstate 5 drivers will face detours at exit 35 beginning Tuesday to enable crews to take the next step on a $24 million bridge project already a year past its original completion date.

CENTRAL POINT — Interstate 5 drivers will face detours at exit 35 beginning Tuesday to enable crews to take the next step on a $24 million bridge project already a year past its original completion date.

The mostly nighttime detours at Blackwell Road will allow contractors to remove "bridge false work," structures used to access the site during initial construction.

The Seven Oaks/Blackwell Interchange project is aimed at improving the interchange while replacing two I-5 bridges over the Central Oregon and Pacific Railroad. The project is being funded through a federal program to replace old and failing concrete bridges around Oregon on critical freight routes.

Both bridges were cracked and past their anticipated lifespan. The Blackwell Road bridge span, in particular, handles heavy aggregate truck traffic, said Oregon Department of Transportation project information officer Gary Leaming.

That bridge also will include wider shoulders to improve safety for bicyclists.

"It's going to be a much safer situation than the original interchange provided," said Leaming. "This project also will set things up for future development pressures that exist at that particular interchange."

Beginning Tuesday at 10 p.m., northbound I-5 traffic will detour up and over the exit 35 overpass until 5 a.m. Wednesday. Signs and flaggers will help direct traffic.

On Wednesday, southbound traffic will detour during the same hours. Southbound I-5 traffic will leave at exit 35 and run along Highway 99, returning to I-5 at the north Medford interchange, exit 30.

Originally slated for an October 2008 completion, a handful of issues delayed the project, including a contractor performing unacceptable work or providing materials that did not meet project specifications.

ODOT says the project is now slated for completion in August.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford.

E-mail her at buffypollock@juno.com.