MEDFORD — A construction project meant to provide more ease in crossing Highway 62 is under way at the highway's intersections with Coker Butte Road and Owen Drive.

MEDFORD — A construction project meant to provide more ease in crossing Highway 62 is under way at the highway's intersections with Coker Butte Road and Owen Drive.

Crews from Central Point-based Knife River Materials are working on relocating a stretch of Crater Lake Avenue about 300 feet to the east and extending Owen and tying it in to the east, says Joe Soares, a Knife River general superintendent.

Construction began about two weeks ago and is scheduled to be complete in fall 2011, says Cory Crebbin, Medford public works director.

Now running parallel to Highway 62, Crater Lake Avenue will be moved to the east near Owen and Coker Butte. As a result, drivers approaching Highway 62 will have a longer queuing distance, and the avenue intersections will be farther away from the highway intersections, reducing the likelihood of driver conflict, officials say.

In addition to the realignment of Crater Lake Avenue and the extension of Owen, the more than $10 million project includes installation of a four-way intersection with traffic lights on Highway 62 at Coker Butte and Owen. Crews also will extend Owen west to Lear Way.

The purpose of the project is to space traffic signals more evenly on Highway 62 to ease congestion and allow a smooth flow of traffic on Highway 62 while giving drivers more safe options for crossing or entering the highway from side streets, Crebbin said.

"This will give you more crossing options," Crebbin says. "Right now, Delta Waters is the only direct option to cross Highway 62 in Medford."

The new configuration also will relieve congestion around Costco and Walmart, says Mitch Vigna, Knife River general manager in Central Point.

In less than two weeks, Knife River crews will begin groundwork for the Coker Butte intersection, and work on each part of the project will occur concurrently, with construction wrapping up in August 2011, Vigna says.

As a part of the project a traffic signal at Highway 62 at Cardinal Avenue will be removed. In its place, there will be an option for northbound drivers to turn left into the Walmart and Costco parking lot at the new Owen intersection and travel west to Lear Way, Crebbin says.

A median barrier will be placed on Highway 62 at Cardinal, allowing for right-in and right-out access only there.

Lithia Motors is helping to pay for the street signal at Coker Butte and Highway 62. Walmart also is adding nearly $500,000 to extend Owen Drive to the west, connecting with Lear Way. The contribution is part of an agreement that allows expansion of the Walmart store.

The Statewide Transportation Improvement Project program will cover about $9 million of the $10 million total cost of the project, while the city will provide about $1 million.

About 38 people, including Knife River employees and subcontractors, are working on the project. At its height, the project will employ about 50 people between mid-August and October, Vigna says.

Reach reporter Paris Achen at 541-776-4459 or e-mail pachen@mailtribune.com.