A $72 million interchange project that started construction in 2014 is mostly complete, giving the city of Phoenix a new look that should be good for business.
“It will give Phoenix the best of both worlds,” said Mayor Jeff Bellah. “The east side for large development and the small, downtown feel back into the downtown.”
City officials will mark the completion of the project — which includes the first "diverging diamond" roadway ever built in Oregon — with a ribbon-cutting at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Shoppes at Exit 24.
The project included demolition of an old bridge, construction of a new bridge over Interstate 5, and the building of a new, four-lane bridge over Bear Creek into downtown, along with upgraded roadway links to Highway 99/Main Street west of Bear Creek. Roads east of the exit, including North Phoenix Road and Grove Road, also were improved, and North Phoenix was extended over I-5 to Highway 99. Sidewalks and bike lanes were added throughout the project.
The new exit will be attractive for companies that want to manufacture products or establish corporate operations, said Colleen Padilla, executive director of Southern Oregon Regional Economic Development Inc. The opening will lead to utilization of a 450-acre area designated for development northeast of the exit, she noted.
“A lot of companies that we are courting are transporting products out of Oregon. To be close to a freeway with good ingress and egress will be very important,” said Padilla. Corporations also look for areas where employees can live close to work, she said.
The site served by the improvements ultimately should contain a mix of corporate campuses, retail, residences and industrial uses, said Bellah.
Initial planning started in 2004, but environmental documents needed to begin the project weren’t completed until October 2010. Work started in February 2014. Hamilton Construction of Springfield submitted the winning bid and used a number of subcontractors.
Total cost for planning, environmental assessments, right-of-way purchases, engineering, contingency funds and the project itself was $72 million, with the majority of that for construction.
“We are tracking right along with the original authorization on the project,” said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming. “Right now we are at $41.6 million and we are looking really good on the budget.”
With several major businesses surrounding the project area, including the Shoppes at Exit 24, Home Depot, Peterbuilt and Petro Stopping Center, a limited amount of land was available, said Leaming. The tight configuration led to the building of Oregon’s first diverging-diamond intersection, which can be built in a more compact area and results in fewer traffic signals for drivers.
“We were trying to thread that needle during this project,” said Leaming.
During construction, ODOT allowed business to put up extra signage to alert motorists to their locations, kept the Bear Creek Greenway open by rerouting a portion over city streets and had an office in the Shoppes at Exit 24 where the public could go to gain information. Major closures that resulted in disconnecting the interstate from downtown occurred only four times, said Leaming, and were done on weekends.
“When you showed up Monday morning, everything was open again,” said Leaming.
Traffic is now flowing in all lanes, but some work on landscaping, sidewalks and center islands remains.
— Tony Boom is an Ashland freelance writer. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.