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Talent gets road upgrades this year

Two long-awaited road projects will be completed in Talent this year.

Improvements to Highway 99 between Rapp and Creel roads have been planned for more than a decade, while pedestrian and bike access enhancement along Rapp Road have been sought for a half-dozen years.

Work is already underway on the Highway 99 upgrades, a $5.4 million Oregon Department of Transportation project that includes upgrades reaching to Ashland. The city has contributed $400,000 toward that effort.

A pedestrian bridge on Rapp Road parallel to the current vehicle bridge is under construction and will be transported to the site; and a paved path will be built along the road from Rapp Lane to Louis J Street.

Highway 99 work will include storm drains, curbs, gutters, sidewalks and bike lanes between Rapp and Creel. After repaving the road will have two travel lanes and a center turn lane.

“This will be one of the pivotal projects for Talent and its future,” said Talent Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood. “What makes this a particularly great project is the impact it presents across the board. It’s not just safety but also livability and economic development potential for Talent.”

Contractor Knife River Materials will begin work on the east side initially. When that is completed work will move to the west side. Traffic lanes have been restriped to a two-lane configuration, and speed in the construction zone was reduced to 35 mph.

Traffic was reduced to two lanes from Rapp to Creel at times beginning in September while contractors worked to relocated utilities in the area prior to the current project. That work continued into winter months.

“The utility work is all wrapped up, and ODOT is in there working with our contractor,” said agency spokesman Gary Leaming. Steel plates in the roadway cover excavations for storm drain crossings. There are 12 pipes in the area, but that work should be finished in two to three weeks and the roadway will get temporary asphalt patching.

Work on both sides should finish by the end of August, with paving planned during September. Stripping and thermoplastic lane marking materials will then be installed. A Sept. 30 project end date is planned.

The Rapp Road upgrade, a city of Talent project, is expected to begin after May 21. Cost of the project is estimated at $271,000. A 50-foot-long aluminum bridge, being built off-site by GatorBridge of Marietta, Georgia, costs $51,558, including freight charges.

Bids for the path and bridge installation were opened May 1. Engineering estimates envision completion by early July.

The project includes a 600-foot-long paved bike and walking path on the north side from Rapp Lane to Louis J. Street. The project will serve the 143-unit Parkside Apartments and give students a better walking route to Talent elementary and middle schools. Both the bridge and the pathway will be ADA-compliant.

Rapp Road will also be chipped sealed from the railroad tracks to Wagner Creek Road after the pedestrian path is complete. Jackson Country will do the preventive maintenance for the city. Cost is estimated at $62,000.

Knife Rivers’ contract work includes new pavement on Highway 99 from Creel to the Ashland city limits. The road will be restriped to a two-lane configuration with a center turn lane and bike lanes from Creel to north of South Valley View. A northbound bike lane will be striped from Jackson Road to South Valley View, but four traffic lanes and the center lane will be retained in that section.

Paving from Ashland to Creel could occur during May, as there is no excavation work required, Leaming said.

Tony Boom is an Ashland Freelance writer. Reach him at tboomwrtier@gmail.com.