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RVCOG will explore congestion and future projects along Highway 62

More than 40,000 vehicles travel the crowded Highway 62 corridor every day ' and traffic experts say that number will double in 30 years.

A project with an estimated price tag of &

36;127 million is in the works to both unsnarl congestion and cope with future growth along Highway 62. Area residents are invited to take part in the project's development during an open house today.

The Rogue Valley Council of Governments will host the event in White City from 4 to 7 p.m. at the Rogue Family Center, 3131 Ave. C. The public is invited to attend the open house to learn more about the proposed improvement project and to make suggestions, said RVCOG public involvement coordinator John Morrison.

We want their input and perceptions, Morrison said. We want to get their comments ... This is a regional project. It affects a lot of people.

The open house is part of the Crater Lake Highway Transportation and Land Use Study, a project RVCOG officials kicked off four months ago. According to Morrison, the study coordinates transportation issues along Highway 62 with land-use development on both sides of the Highway 62 corridor.

Plans to overhaul Highway 62 from Medford at Poplar Road to Highway 140 in White City have been put on hold because no funding has been secured, said project information specialist Gary Leaming of the Oregon Department of Transportation.

ODOT is considering two options for Highway 62 ' limiting most access to the highway, thereby creating an expressway, or building a separate expressway between Medford and White City that parallels Highway 62 on the west side.

We're trying to get money to begin work to complete the environmental document and take (the project) to the next phase, Leaming said, adding that ODOT is currently seeking funding from both the state and federal governments.

When completed, the study will contain information necessary to determine which alternative is better.

Once a decision to build a new expressway or revamp Highway 62 is made, Leaming said, the first phase of the project will cost &

36;30 million. It includes overhauling the corridor from Poplar Drive to Delta Waters Road.

That's a critical corridor, with high traffic volumes, Leaming said. It's on a freight route. It's a key priority for the state.

The challenge that's presented to us is how do we provide access to those businesses along the corridor? It's going to be expensive and it's something we really need to work through.

When completed, Morrison said, RVCOG's study will identify the potential impacts of each alternative and help establish road and development plans for the next 20 years. The study is expected to wrap up in the summer of 2003. Morrison said results of the study ' which will include public comments ' will be forwarded to the state, Jackson County and the city of Medford.

Transportation officials will be on hand at today's open house to answer questions, as well as to gather public suggestions, concerns and comments. A video outlining the improvement project will be shown.

For more information, call Morrison at 664-6676, extension 243.

Regional planners will hold an open house today to consider the fate of Highway 62 between Medford and White City, which now handles an estimated 40,000 vehicle a day. That number is expected to double in the coming 30 years. Mail Tribune / Jim Craven - Mail Tribune Jim Craven