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Greenway work paves latest link near fairgrounds

CENTRAL POINT — The newest link in the Bear Creek Greenway will make a 20-mile continuous path through Southern Oregon, and crews are busy completing the task.

During paving work on the trail's final portion, nearby Peninger Road will be closed between the Jackson County Expo's No. 5 gate and Upton Road today through Friday, Nov. 22, the Jackson County Roads and Parks Department reported.

The nearby Expo and Family Fun Center will remain open during the closure. Motorists will be able to access both locales from Peninger Road if they turn onto it from East Pine Street. Drivers who regularly use the road's closed portion are advised to seek alternate routes to their destination.

Work on the 1.4-mile portion of the Greenway, which will link East Pine Street to Upton Road, started Monday, Nov. 4. Salem-based Oregon Mainline Paving LLC will close the road to build retaining walls along the edge of the Expo's north ponds. The closed section is anticipated to reopen Saturday, Nov. 23, as a one-lane road, with traffic controlled by a temporary signal. Construction on the retaining walls and reconstruction of the road is estimated to continue through Monday, Dec. 23. Delays of five minutes or less are anticipated for motorists in the area during this time, and alternate routes still should be considered.

Upon completion of the Greenway section between Upton Road to East Pine Street, there will be close to 20 miles of continuous Greenway in the Rogue Valley.

"It's fantastic. To make the connection to the Expo Fairgrounds is a big deal," said Jenna Stanke, bicycle pedestrian manager for Jackson County Parks. "Allowing people to access the Fairgrounds by foot or by bike will be a big improvement."

The $1.7 million bicycle, walking and running path will stretch from a site just off Oak Street in Ashland through Talent, Phoenix, Medford and Central Point to the north Central Point exit off Interstate 5. Construction has been ongoing since the 1970s. Jackson County first secured federal funds — which pay for a majority of the paving project — to fund it in 2010, along with an additional $190,000 in matching local funds from the Bear Creek Greenway Foundation.

The full path is expected to be complete and open to the general public by June 30, 2014. While that 20-mile strip will be complete, construction will continue. Stanke said the ultimate goal is to connect with the Rogue River Greenway out at Rock Point Bridge while stretching the other direction to Emigrant Lake. Project officials said they hope to have a 50-mile path by project's end.

"I see it all as one big effort," Stanke said.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or by email at rpfeil@mailtribune.com.