Ashland city leaders are pleased that the Oregon Department of Transportation is planning to install an innovative bicycle traffic light at the Exit 14 interchange, but they're worried that other changes could endanger bicyclists and pedestrians.

In June, ODOT is planning to start a two-year project to upgrade the south Ashland interchange.
Traffic signals will be built on both sides of the Ashland Street bridge that crosses over Interstate 5. The traffic signal on the side of the bridge closest to central Ashland will also get a bicycle light.

ODOT knows of only three such bicycle traffic lights in Oregon, and all three of those are in Portland, said ODOT consultant Karen Tatman of Quincy Engineering.

Sensors in the road will sense when a bicycle is at the intersection on the west side of the interchange. Traffic signals for vehicles will turn red and a green light in the shape of a bicycle to let cyclists know it's safe to cross.

“We're excited about ODOT going to this new technology,” said Ashland Public Works Director Mike Faught.

At the same time, city officials would also like to see ODOT install a bicycle traffic light on the east side of the Ashland Street bridge, closest to the Ashland airport and Oak Knoll Public Golf Course.

ODOT is upgrading the interchange as part of a statewide effort mandated by the Oregon Legislature to fix bridges.

The interchange as it is now can't adequately handle traffic volumes. It also has had an “extremely high” number of accidents, city staff said.

They counted 31 accidents between June 1998 and December 2009, including four crashes that involved pedestrians and bicyclists.

Proposed improvements to the interchange could have prevented at least 20 of the reported crashes, including all of those involving bicyclists and pedestrians, city staff said in a memo to the City Council.

— Vickie Aldous