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I-5 construction site an 'active work zone'

I commute every day from Medford to Ashland. I noticed that the construction on I-5 near the Phoneix exit has stopped, and yet the traffic cones are still there and the speed limit is still posted as 50 mph, which causes a lot of congestion. When is this going to be cleaned up and fixed?

— Matthew T., Medford

Matthew, construction on Interstate 5 near exit 24 may have come to a halt, but it's far from over.

Springfield-based Hamilton Construction closed a lane in each direction for 25 days to install a 4-foot diameter stormwater pipe beneath the freeway. The job was completed May 21 but represents only the first phase of the $72 million Fern Valley interchange project.

The project is expected to be completed by September 2016. Until then, the area is "an active work zone" and the speed limit will remain 50 mph, said Jared Castle, a spokesman for Oregon Department of Transportation.

"Just because the lanes are open, doesn't mean the work is finished," he said.

ODOT has advised commuters to travel at alternate times and, if possible, take alternate routes.

But take heart. Although there may be intermittent lane and ramp closures in the future, none of them will be as long as the 25 days for the pipe installation, Castle said.

"It's always frustrating when work affects your commute, but this construction project is a once-in-a-career inconvenience," he said.

It also will be a once-in-the-state experience for drivers as the first "diverging diamond" interchange in Oregon. Essentially, it means vehicles on Fern Valley will approach the overpass in the right lane, allowing a free right turn onto the freeway, then the lanes will cross, allowing a free left turn onto the freeway headed the opposite direction, then cross back to put vehicles in the usual right-hand lanes as they continue on the road.

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. We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.