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ODOT wants to extend Hwy. 140 to Blackwell Road

An improved bypass route that would extend Highway 140 to Blackwell Road north of Central Point could start to take shape as early as next year, according to officials at Jackson County and the Oregon Department of Transportation.

The county and ODOT have begun preliminary discussions about turning over jurisdiction of Avenue G and other roads to allow for the designation of these routes as part of Highway 140.

We would take over the whole stretch, said Art Anderson, ODOT area manager. It would all be over existing streets.

Anderson, who thought the jurisdictional exchange might be a year off, said about &

36;7 million of the &

36;11 million needed to rebuild and expand the interchange at Blackwell Road and Interstate 5 has already been funded.

ODOT, working with Jackson County, will keep costs down by using existing routes, smoothing out curves and widening stretches of roadway.

— Anderson said the Highway 140 extension could become more appealing as a freight route for truckers and help take some of the burden off Highway 62.

Anderson said a two-year process will begin in the next two months to determine the best way to improve flow on Highway 62, which has 40,000 vehicle trips a day now compared to 70,000 expected by 2020.

While ODOT studies ways to improve flow on the highway, Anderson said major changes to Kirtland and Blackwell roads would likely be funded in 2008 or 2009.

The Highway 140 extension would not be as direct as the route proposed by Commissioner Dave Gilmour recently, but Anderson said existing plans would be cheaper because they would use existing roads and still be direct enough to divert some traffic.

Avenue G has been repaved by the county this summer at a cost of &

36;710,000, and the county has begun preliminary work that could provide a smoother connection between this avenue and Kirtland Road.

County Engineer Dale Petrasek said turning over jurisdiction of roads has only been discussed among county staff.

There has been no agreement made on the county side of it, he said. The jurisdictional exchange may or may not happen.

Plans are in the works to widen Kirtland Road between Highbanks Road and the bridge over Bear Creek, he said.

Petrasek said there has also been discussion about improving the connection between Kirtland and Blackwell roads.

He said improving the entire connection between Highway 62 and Blackwell Road will take place no matter whether it's under county control or under ODOT.

These projects are already planned, he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail

County board discusses ways to prevent traffic congestion in the future

To head off long-range transportation and air pollution problems, Jackson County commissioners Wednesday unveiled proposals they say would alleviate traffic congestion resulting from future growth.

We don't want to be sitting here 15 years from now and say we should have done this 15 years ago, said Commissioner Sue Kupillas.

Commissioner Jack Walker has dusted off an old proposal to connect South Stage Road to North Phoenix Road and Interstate 5.

Somewhere there has to be an additional interchange, said Walker, citing plans to build 2,200 homes above North Phoenix Road.

Commissioner Dave Gilmour wants to turn Table Rock Road into an alternative route for Highway 62 traffic, creating a partial interchange at Interstate 5 that would benefit the trucking industry.

He also wants to create a bypass road that would extend Highway 140 to Blackwell Road north of Central Point.

All these projects together would alleviate expected traffic jams in the future, he said.

The population in the valley has doubled in the last 20 years and it's expected to double again in the next 20 years, Gilmour said.

Art Anderson, area manager for the Oregon Department of Transportation, said a plan is already in the works to improve the connection from Highway 62 to Blackwell Road.

Anderson said any discussion of an interchange at South Stage would have to take place after new interchanges are built at Fern Valley in Phoenix and at south Medford.

If traffic flows don't improve markedly with the new interchanges or if the growth in the valley warrants it, an interchange could be considered at South Stage. We have to follow a methodical process first, he said.

Anderson said ODOT hasn't examined the Table Rock interchange idea, but partial interchange projects are generally discouraged on federal highways.

The idea is you don't want to come back later and double your costs, he said.

Gilmour said the proposals offered by commissioners are suggestions to get state and local officials talking more about the area's long-range transportation needs.

This is not chiseled in stone, he said.

Walker said long-term planning is needed to address potential air quality problems from a larger population.

Air quality regulations under consideration by the federal Environmental Protection Agency could be more restrictive than they are now, he said.

With more than 2,000 homes planned for the east Medford foothills, Walker said South Stage Road should be extended over the freeway to connect with North Phoenix Road.

Walker said it would be better for the community to create a transportation system that develops in advance of growth.

The state of Oregon has always been wrong about how to invest transportation dollars, he said, referring to projects that react to development rather than anticipate it.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 776-4476, or e-mail