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Land swap will straighten turns

Smoothing out two sharp turns at Avenue G and Kirtland Road west of White City to improve traffic flow will require slicing through almost three acres of the Denman Wildlife Area, but a land swap will maintain the refuge's acreage.

The estimated $1.3 million project, which could be started in the summer of 2011, would eliminate the 90-degree turns that are less than 1,000 feet apart and remove a stop sign.

"The corners are a problem — we have had accidents there," said John Vial, Jackson County roads director.

Some wetlands in the wildlife refuge will be affected by the change, but county officials have agreed to a land swap with the state — offering in exchange 2.69 acres near the Rogue River that would connect to the wildlife refuge.

The realignment would create a sweeping S curve connecting Avenue G to Kirtland just east of Table Rock Road. The project would also alter the alignment of Pacific Avenue so that it curves to the west into the new roadway to create a T intersection.

Clayton Barber, Denman Wildlife manager for ODFW, said the river property offered by the county in the exchange will provide a riparian area that is similar in quality to the land taken over by the realignment.

Straightening out the roadway between Highway 62 and Interstate 5 has been a goal of local and regional transportation officials who want to create an extension of Highway 140 to the freeway. That would provide a more direct route for travelers and help reduce the traffic load on Highway 62 in and around Medford.

The Oregon Department of Transportation would need to straighten out other sharp corners before the roadway would be considered a state highway and a designated freight route.

"I have no intentions of signing that placard that says 140 until all the pieces are in place," said Jerry Marmon, district manager for ODOT.

An intersection at Kirtland and Blackwell Road is scheduled for improvement next summer. Another intersection at Leigh Way and Agate Road in White City also will need improvement, he said. In addition, the Seven Oaks interchange will need to be completed. It is currently under construction.

Marmon estimated it would be a minimum of two years before the route from White City to Interstate 5 could be considered as part of Highway 140, which currently has its western end in White City.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com.