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Cities seek regional planning voice

Three cities close to joining a regional transportation planning agency are concerned over how much their votes will count.

Ashland, Talent and Jacksonville are joining the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization, a federally mandated organization made up of the urbanized area of Jackson County. Before the 2000 census, that area included Medford, Central Point, Phoenix and White City only. An increased population density revealed by the census expanded the valley's urban boundary, and thus the MPO's jurisdiction.

The organization oversees planning in urbanized areas for all modes of transportation, from pedestrian to automobiles to transit. There are about 300 MPOs throughout the country, as required for regions of 50,000 people or more, and their planning concerns include air quality, economic and environmental issues.

Ashland, Talent and Jacksonville are not voting members yet. At a meeting last week, the MPO policy committee considered how much weight to give their votes.

There is no consensus on this, said Dan Moore, planning program manager for RVCOG and an MPO member. It boils down to: A weighted vote would provide Medford with more votes.

He said Medford is the center of the urban core, but a lot of satellite communities that don't have some of Medford's traffic problems may not vote for certain projects. However, if the satellite communities have a smaller voice, their projects may not be supported.

There are different options that have been discussed, he said. Other MPOs in Oregon are facing this same issue and are requiring that three-quarters of the members vote for a project in order for it to pass.

The MPO is holding a special summit meeting in January to discuss the expanded boundary, the bylaws amendment that would allow the new members to vote, and the voting procedure, among other topics.

The meeting, scheduled for 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Jan. 21 at the Bear Creek Corp. employee training center, is open to the public.

For more information, visit on the Web.

Phoenix road extension opens today Metropolitan Planning Organization member cities get help with projects like the completed South Phoenix Road and the new section of North Phoenix Road that opens today in Phoenix.

Projects within the MPO boundary that are federally funded are part of the Regional Transportation Plan that the MPO puts together.

The new roads are the first phase of the Oregon Department of Transportation's Fern Valley interchange project.

The new South Phoenix Road, off Fern Valley Road behind the Petro Stopping Center, opened Nov. 26.

The project was identified by the MPO and is part of a plan to ease traffic congestion along Fern Valley at the Interstate 5 interchange.

According to Phoenix Public Works Director Jim Wear, the north end of Pear Tree Lane will be made into a cul-de-sac with no access to Fern Valley Road. This is expected to happen in the spring.

The realignment of the North Phoenix Road intersection also addresses traffic congestion problems at the nearby I-5 interchange.

The project will also widen the northbound I-5 off-ramp, which will allow for a right-turn lane. Traffic signals will also be installed at the ramps.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail