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Boulders at exit 19 replaced original landscaping

I have been watching the placement of boulders grow and grow at I-5, exit 19. What is the purpose of all these rocks, and who designed this solution?

— Kerry K., via email

We got some answers for you, Kerry.

The rocks and boulders at the exit 19 interchange are intended to be an alternative “hardscape” to the drought-tolerant plants that were originally planted there, according to Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming.

Crews started rebuilding that exit in 2010 and wrapped during the spring months of 2012, all to the tune of $15 million, Leaming said.

The bridge had an “aesthetic advisory committee” that gave input on bridge color, design and landscaping. The original plan called for drought-tolerant plants, but the interchange had no irrigation going to it, and the plants died.

“We had some pretty severe droughts,” said Leaming. “We try to be very judicious in interchange improvements as far as landscaping, because we don’t have the funds to do that unless we partner with the city on it.”

An ODOT maintenance crew in Ashland removed the dead vegetation and replaced it with rocks “as a means to keep it sustainable and maintainable,” Leaming said.

The boulders came from a rockfall up near milepost 9 along the freeway.

Send questions to “Since You Asked,” Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by email to youasked@mailtribune.com. We’re sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.