Medford councilors on Thursday criticized what they described as a lack of information on road projects, saying it stymies their efforts to answer questions raised by residents.

"How are we expected to respond to our constituents if we don't have the information we need?" Councilor Dick Gordon asked.

At City Council's Thursday study session, Gordon said he has had a difficult time evaluating the Public Works Department because he doesn't get sufficient progress reports on projects.

"It's the overall accounting of the department that I don't see," he said.

Cory Crebbin, Public Works director, said, "I'll have to do a better job."

Going forward, Crebbin said, he would provide quarterly updates on construction projects, many of which can take many years before they are finished because they require sign-offs from multiple agencies, property owners and local utilities.

However, not all the road projects are constructed by the city. Many are undertaken by developers, and Avista Utilities has been working on laying new natural gas lines in east Medford streets for a couple of years, to the discontent of some residents.

Crebbin provided councilors Thursday with a list of projects that are in various stages from design to completion. He said he also could provide information about permits that are taken out by developers and utility companies to further help councilors.

He said Avista just recently pulled a permit on a construction project in east Medford.

"Even that information would have helped," Gordon said. He said he receives a lot of complaints about the Avista work.

Crebbin explained the complicated route a project takes from inception to completion, with many steps that can slow it up.

For example, a $7 million upgrade on Lozier Lane has required moving utility lines by five local companies, Crebbin said.

When the contractor, Oregon Mainline Paving of McMinnville, started the project, it discovered that many of the utility lines hadn't been moved as required, Crebbin said.

The one-mile stretch of Lozier Lane from West Main Street to Stewart Avenue is designed to turn a country road into a major thoroughfare in west Medford. It's scheduled for completion in August 2018.

The city maintains a list of high-priority projects that were approved under a transportation plan in 2003. Many of the projects are waiting for funding, or are in various stages of design or review.

"We're working on something that is 13, 14 years old," Councilor Kevin Stine said of the plan. He suggested the city should review the high-priority projects more frequently, particularly because the makeup of the council has changed considerably over that time.

Planning Director Matt Brinkley said the city could review the projects more often but pointed out that it would be a costly effort, which is why it isn't done more frequently.

Councilor Mike Zarosinski said he would like to see more detail provided on projects that have been in the works for a long time, citing a project on Foothill Road as an example.

The city is preparing to improve a roughly mile-long stretch of Foothill Road north of Hillcrest Road as part of a long-range plan to turn Foothill into an alternate route to Interstate 5. 

The $10 million project will be coupled with a previous $3 million federal grant to continue widening Foothill.

Crebbin said the Foothill project was stalled for about nine months because trees on a historic property on Hillcrest have to be removed, which requires permission from the property owner.

Crebbin said working out rights-of-way on properties is one of many issues that can often slow a project.

— Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.