Over the next 20 years, Medford's growing pains will have a big impact on Ward 4, which encompasses southeast Medford.
The five City Council candidates running for Ward 4, Michelle Blum Atkinson, Andrea Duarte Jablonski, Ruth Moncus, George Schroeder and Kim Wallan, assessed what the growth to the south and east will mean for them, along with plans to widen Foothill Road into a bypass for Interstate 5.
Michelle Blum Atkinson
As Medford's southeast grows, Atkinson said, the city should pay attention to safety issues such as sidewalks for children and roads that can handle the additional traffic.
"It's something I think is very important to keep in mind while we're discussing expansion," Atkinson said.
She said she keeps hearing that Medford doesn't have enough money to build sidewalks in older neighborhoods, so she's concerned about how to pay for improvements to streets and utilities to handle the anticipated growth that will funnel additional traffic throughout the city.
At the same time, she said she thinks residents should discuss how much more Medford should grow.
"I really do wonder how far out we want to grow," she said. "Medford is very big."
She fully supports widening Foothill Road, particularly because it would provide a backup route if a large earthquake takes out the viaduct on Interstate 5.
"An alternative to I-5 is very important," she said.
Jablonski said she and other local residents have concerns about the city's expansion plans and the effects on traffic.
She doesn't think the city does a good job communicating with residents, and she said she often hears misinformation about a project because the city fails to explain it properly.
Before growth occurs, she would like the city to conduct traffic studies to determine the impacts of congestion on surrounding neighborhoods and streets.
In her neighborhood near the roundabout at Siskiyou Boulevard and Highland Drive, motorists often speed through. "People don't seem to realize there are families and residences there," she said.
Likewise, widening Foothill Road has caused much concern among residents worried about speeding motorists.
She said a common misconception is the belief Foothill Road will connect with I-5 rather than Highway 140.
"The city needs to communicate more upfront before it gets started," she said.
Moncus said she generally supports growth but doesn't want the city to concentrate primarily on building houses for the wealthy.
She said the public needs more details on the kind of growth, as well as the impact on utilities.
"The community is growing, and people need a place to live," she said.
While some residents have urged construction of more apartments, Moncus said she sees the potential to create more congestion, and she cites traffic on Poplar Drive as an example.
Foothill Road already is a popular route to the east side of White City, and she supports the project as long as it doesn't involve adding any more taxes for local residents.
"I think having a two-lane road there is dangerous," she said. "I think a four-lane highway would be an important safety issue."
Schroeder said Medford has talked about expanding in the southeast for a long time, so he thinks it makes sense.
"If they build more cottages next to the golf course, I don't see the problem," he said. "The (Rogue Valley) Manor has done well so far."
Although Medford may need affordable housing, Schroeder said demand has increased for all types of housing, including for the middle class.
"We need housing for those people, too," he said.
The area has been preparing for growth and will continue to prepare for growth, Schroeder said. One big example of the preparation for a growing community is the Phoenix interchange, he said. Schroeder suspects many southeast Medford residents will head down to that interchange rather than going down congested Barnett Road.
While traffic has increased, Schroeder said it's not at a point where it's unbearable, and he thinks widening Foothill Road is one step to prepare for the future.
"If something happens to the viaduct, we're in serious trouble," he said.
"This whole urban growth boundary is one of the biggest issues facing the city," Wallan said. "The reason it has become such an issue is that we haven't tackled it head-on with a good plan."
Wallan said the city has failed to work effectively with other cities and the county to address the impacts of expanding Medford's boundaries.
"Everybody is operating in isolation," she said. "You've got a setup of winners and losers rather than winners and winners."
She does think the city needs to grow, but it should find a way to provide housing inventory that supports low-income families, as well.
"Let's use our land-use laws to encourage multi-use dwellings among single-use dwellings," she said.
Wallan said she hopes the Foothill widening project is similar to McAndrews in providing a thoroughfare but not a freeway.
"I've always thought we need a beltline road," she said. "Foothill is a kind of beltline."
She is concerned about some houses that have been built close to Foothill that might be impacted by the widening project.
— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or email@example.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.