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ODOT activates I-5 Web cams

The cameras will give travelers a way to check on freeway congestion during the viaduct's upgrade

It's time for lights, camera, action atop the Interstate 5 viaduct.

On Tuesday, the Oregon Department of Transportation activated four Web cameras on the viaduct. Motorists can now look at I-5 traffic conditions in Medford by using their computers.

Two cameras were placed at the north Medford interchange, and two were installed at the south interchange.

According to project information specialist Gary Leaming, the cameras will allow drivers to check out the traffic when construction on the viaduct kicks off in January.

We thought it would be a good idea, Leaming said. It would just be another bonus for public involvement.

The half-mile freeway bridge that runs through Medford is in desperate need of an overhaul, said Leaming.

The five-month, &

36;18 million project includes seismic improvements along 3,222 feet of road, plus a new concrete surface and reinforcement of the bridge's beams.

Around-the-clock work is set to begin Jan. 2, and should wrap up by June. The state is offering incentives to get the job done as quickly as possible.

So far there have been no delays, Leaming said.

We're right on track, he added.

Traffic delays associated with the project are expected to have a ripple effect up and down the West Coast. Delays from slow or stopped traffic could cost the trucking industry more than &

36;60,000 daily, the transportation department has estimated.

More than 45,000 vehicles cross the viaduct daily, a figure that jumps to 50,000 in summer months. An estimated 40 percent of that traffic is local, Leaming added.

Residents who use the viaduct are being urged to seek alternate routes during construction.

State officials hope the cameras will give residents that incentive, or at least they'll keep off the viaduct during peak hours.

The issue that most people need to know is that there's going to be delays, he said. We're trying to get people to consider alternate routes.

Despite rumors to the contrary, I-5 will remain open during the project. Traffic will not be rerouted through Medford. However, drivers won't be able to enter the viaduct from either interchange. They will be allowed to go north on the freeway from the north interchange and to go south from the south interchange. Freeway traffic will be allowed to exit at both interchanges.

In November, crews will strengthen the shoulders of the viaduct to accommodate rerouted traffic.

However, Leaming said that work will take place at night and delays aren't anticipated.

The Web cams on the viaduct may be new, but the concept has been around for years.

ODOT operates nearly 100 video cameras along freeways and highways throughout the state.

Residents can log onto the Internet and type in the address, , to get a picture of current road conditions.

The information is updated every few minutes.

The cameras also can be accessed at region3public/medfordviaduct.

The site also features the viaduct's history and the coming construction project. Information about other Southern Oregon road projects is available.

Medford's north-south artery: Interstate 5

When it comes to driving a straight shot from north to south Medford, there aren't a lot of options beyond hopping on the interstate and heading across the viaduct.

Aside from Highway 99 bisecting the city, there are no arteries the full length of the east or west sides of town.

It's a big problem, said Skip Knight, City Council member and chairman of the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization.

Right now we're working on the alignment of Foothill (Road) with North Phoenix (Road), he said.

Other than that, there's nothing.

The Oregon Department of Transportation estimates that 40 percent of Interstate 5's traffic between the north and south interchanges is local ' Medford drivers trying to get to the other side of town.

Local drivers will be challenged to find alternate routes during the viaduct repairs.

Knight said that crews will be working double-time so the viaduct project can be completed by summer.

The city gave ODOT permission to work 24 hours a day, otherwise it would be 18 months, he said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has assembled a Web site to cover Medford?s viaduct project traffic. The six-month, around-the-clock project, which gets under way in January, will restrict Interstate 5 to one lane in each direction.