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South Medford interchange signals include backup power

While driving home a few weeks ago during a big power outage when 15,000 customers were without power for hours, the traffic signals were out all the way from Rogue Valley Medical Center to Anton Way — except for the big "Alaska pipeline" signals mounted atop the new freeway interchange at Exit 27 — which was working, thankfully. Do the signals there have their own backup power? Just curious...

— Millie I, Medford

That power outage back on Sept. 18 was no picnic for anybody out in traffic, Millie. In fact, the SYA executive management team was very concerned that the afternoon outage would prevent them from making it to an important business meeting at a nearby golf course. Seems their tee time ... er, meeting ... was scheduled at about the same time as the power failure.

So we took your question to Gary Leaming, our dependable information source for all things ODOT, that is the Oregon Department of Transportation.

Leaming says the big traffic signals atop the interchange were built with a battery backup system for just such occurrences. As luck would have it, the backup arrangement wasn't completed when the power went down, but it could be powered with an auxiliary generator.

So ODOT people flagged traffic through the interchange for a short time until a generator could be delivered and set up. Then things went back to normal.

Your comparison of the Alaska pipeline and the signal structure is a good one. The pipeline is 48 inches in diameter — about the same size as the steel tubes that hold up the signal structure, which is just a shade more than 168 feet long and weighs 30 tons. It cost about $289,000.

Leaming says the length of the tubular span dictates the size of the steel tubes.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to youasked@mailtribune.com.