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Roots vs. the route

Street widening's impact on trees at issue

Doug O'Dell is concerned that an east Medford street-widening plan will bring faster traffic and the death of two towering cedar trees.

These trees are worth two or three thousand a piece, said the East Jackson Street resident. They're probably 40 years old.

The cedars grow just outside the public right of way, but he said the root system extends into the project area.

This'll probably kill them, he said.

O'Dell is among many East Jackson Street residents who, along with members of the Medford Tree Committee, are looking for a compromise in an upcoming city project.

— The East Jackson Street project is planned to run from Berkeley Way to Hillcrest Road and on Hillcrest Road from East Jackson to Valley View Drive. The plan would widen the streets from roughly 26 feet to 59 feet, adding sidewalks, a middle turn lane and bike lanes. A traffic light would replace a four-way stop sign at the intersection of East Jackson and Sunrise, and a house would be removed at the corner of East Jackson and Hillcrest to decrease the angle of the curve at that intersection.

The tree committee called a special study session Wednesday to discuss its recommendations to the City Council before the council holds an April 7 public hearing on the topic.

Bill Harrington, city arborist, said about 35 trees outside of the project area may suffer life-threatening damage to their root systems from the work.

The tree committee reported that the existing trees on East Jackson provide benefits to the city as a whole, such as aesthetics, improved air quality and shade. They also pointed out that if root systems are damaged, the remaining tree becomes a potential hazard.

The purpose is not to stop the project but to tailor the project to the neighborhood, said Gary Bartlett, tree committee chairman.

The council postponed a decision on the project until April 7 after about 35 neighbors showed up for a public hearing March — ' some in support but most not.

Several neighbors would like a compromise, widening East Jackson from 26 to 35 feet rather than the proposed 59-foot width.

Residents in the project area hope to eliminate the proposed 12-foot center lane and one of the sidewalks. They also suggest the remaining sidewalk and two bike lanes be narrower.

East Jackson resident Mark Chirgwin said he hopes council members will walk the project area because he believes once they see exactly what's at stake, they'll rethink the plan.

The biggie is the impact to the trees, said Chirgwin. Among those are two trees planted in his yard in 1947. Chirgwin said if the city eliminates the center lane and one sidewalk, some trees could be spared.

We considered all this stuff, said Cory Crebbin, public works director. He said traffic volumes projected for the street make a center turn lane important for safety reasons because it gives drivers more room to maneuver. He said the segment of street has been identified as a walking route for both Hedrick Middle School and North Medford High School, so sidewalks are needed on both sides.

Deviations from the proposal would be up to the council at this point, he said.

We'll build whatever the council decides to build, he said.

Nearly the entire project is on city-owned property, according to city engineers.

Doug O?Dell owns two properties on East Jackson Street that would be affected by a proposed street widening project. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell - Mail Tribune Bob Pennell