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Rogue River street closure causes distress

Some motorists fail to follow directions, while others are clearly confused by railroad crossing reconstruction

ROGUE RIVER ' The weekend closure of Depot Street into town caused some confusion among drivers Saturday, despite officials' best efforts to alert the public several weeks ahead of time.

Motorists drove past orange detour signs and traffic notices, apparently unconvinced the closure would affect them. A few yards away from the construction site, drivers were stopped by barricades and given specific directions for rerouting by city public works employees or Rogue River police.

Depot Street closed at the railroad crossing starting at 6 a.m. Saturday. It is expected to remain closed until noon on Monday for reconstruction of the rail line.

Rogue River Public Works Director Ken Johnson estimated that at least 50 percent of drivers seemed unaware they were not going to be able to enter the city by their usual route.

In some cases, drivers ignored the directions they were given, creating dangerous situations.

Johnson said that about noon on Saturday, one female motorist was instructed by maintenance technician Joe Carbone to perform a U-turn and return back across the bridge. Instead, the driver turned right and proceeded up the Interstate 5 off-ramp.

While the construction crew screamed warnings to the woman, Carbone and Johnson sprinted after her car to catch her before she met someone coming off the freeway.

That was a heart-stopper, said Johnson. I don't know how much more clear we could have been. Joe told her exactly what she needed to do.

Carbone said he was the first to reach the confused driver. He said she was clearly distraught.

She was shaking and apologizing. I stopped the traffic on the off-ramp and helped her back her car back down to the road, he said.

Johnson and Rogue River Police Officer Craig Plescia discussed the need for additional staffing at the closure site. In addition to police traffic control, public works planned about 30 hours of coverage during the closure with another eight hours of time being considered for reserve officers.

Despite the traffic problems, construction at the Depot Street railroad crossing was moving along as scheduled Saturday. The existing rail spur line and crossing are being removed and a new concrete crossing will be placed on the main line.

We expect the crossing to be open close to the Monday noon deadline, said Johnson.

Central Oregon Pacific Railroad has no trains scheduled on weekends, but runs approximately four trains a day Monday through Friday. Johnson says the tracks will be ready.

The rail will be active Monday morning. Trains will by passing by while the crew finishes up the concrete work on either side, said Johnson.

Johnson said a few businesses had closed for the weekend because of decreased traffic but that the city had not received any complaints about the work on the crossing.

There have been no negative comments from the community, he said. They know how important this project is for the city.

Johnson urged motorists to pay attention to the detour signs and especially to the workers providing traffic control.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has created the following detours for motorists:

Motorists wanting to travel north on Interstate 5 from Rogue River will follow the detour signs on West Main Street/Foothill Boulevard.

Motorists wanting to travel south on Interstate 5 must follow the detour signs on East Main Street to North River Road.

Motorists entering the city from the southbound lanes of Interstate 5 must use Foothill Boulevard. Detour signs will be located on the freeway north of Grants Pass Exit 55 and on U.S. Highway 199 near Agnes Avenue in Grants Pass.

Northbound freeway motorists entering the city will use Exit 45A (south of Valley of the Rogue State Park) and follow North River Road.

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Joe Carbone, a maintenance technician for the city of Rogue River, hands a detour map to a visitor wanting to enter the city on Saturday. Drivers must detour several miles to avoid the Depot Street railroad crossing, which will reopen Monday. Click the photo to see a larger (29k) version. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven