The scale of the $120 million Highway 62 Expressway is difficult for most motorists negotiating through construction zones to wrap their heads around.

Near Poplar Drive it's also difficult to understand how the existing roadway will connect with the new four-lane highway that will end at Corey Road near White City.

What motorists traveling from Medford to Eagle Point should notice is their travel times reduced by about seven minutes when the 4.5-mile expressway is completed by early 2019.

And motorists traveling on the old highway that is often the most congested four-lane roadway in the valley should see a 40 percent reduction in traffic.

These are the predictions the Oregon Department of Transportation has made as the construction by Knife River Materials passes the halfway point.

 

The section of roadway from Poplar to Vilas Road is 75 percent complete, and the section from Vilas to Corey is 50 percent complete.

Nine of the 25 lane miles — figuring in multiple lanes in the 4.5-mile project — have been completed. As with any project of this magnitude, a lot of the work goes unnoticed, including running utilities, installing culverts, protecting streams and lots of excavation.

Altogether, 461,000 cubic yards of dirt has been removed, enough to excavate a football field to a depth of 216 feet.

Gary Leaming, spokesman for ODOT, said he hopes residents of the valley come to appreciate how much the new roadway should improve transportation locally.

"It's not solving every problem in the corridor, but it's a beginning," he said. "It will lessen commute times and it will be eliminating the waste of a lot of fuel."

Motorists on the expressway will bypass four traffic lights and lots of congestion, including at Delta Waters Road, where cars on Highway 62 are sometimes backed up for almost a mile.

It will also assist trucking companies looking forward to a safer and quicker path for their drivers to negotiate through Medford as they head to and from Interstate 5.

"The more you can get big trucks out of the way for the motoring public the safer it's going to be for everyone in the community," said Doug Sabin, safety director for F.V. Martin Trucking Company, off Highway 140 on Merry Lane.

Sabin said the expressway will provide a significant time advantage for his company's trucks, since the entrance to the new roadway is about a mile away.

"For us, and what we do here, it will be an absolute time advantage to get down the highway as opposed to blocking the highway," he said.

ODOT has also worked with his company to help design turn lanes to better accommodate semi trucks.

The first phase of the project started in May 2016, and the second phase at the start of this year.

Because the project is so large, Knife River built a temporary concrete plant near Vilas Road. The plant is being torn down for the winter and moved to Portland for a large project there but in the spring will be brought back to Medford to finish the expressway.

At the end of this month, the beams that will support the bridge over Vilas Road will be installed and construction can begin on the roadway for the bridge. Knife River has already installed the approaches on either side.

Motorist will notice big changes in 2018 when workers begin making the connections with the existing roadway to the approaches and bridge that will connect with the expressway. Much of the work will occur at night to limit added congestion.

Motorists traveling on Highway 62 from Medford to Eagle Point will be able to veer to the left at Whittle Avenue, across from Hubbard's Home Center, to get on the new expressway. Once they make the left, motorists travel through what appears to be a short tunnel before they get on the expressway.

Once on the new road, drivers won't be able to get off until it reaches Corey Road. If you're heading to Medford from Eagle Point, Corey Road will be the start of your journey on the Expressway. Approaching Highway 62 west of its intersection with Delta Waters Road, near Sportsman's Warehouse, the road curves to the right and merges back onto the highway.

Motorists traveling west on Highway 62, heading toward I-5, will cross an overpass near Whittle as traffic on the expressway below heads toward White City.

The bridge will create the short tunnel that will be the entrance to the expressway.

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