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Hwy. 62 bypass work expected to kick off this summer

About $120 million worth of construction and improvements meant to ease traffic congestion and improve safety along a stretch of Highway 62 is set to kick off this summer.

The work, officially known as the Oregon 62: I-5 to Dutton Road project, will build a four-lane expressway from Poplar Drive to Corey Road, diverging north along the Old Medco Haul Road. Most of the stretch will run west of Highway 62 and east of the Medford airport.

All work is expected to be completed by 2018. The Oregon Department of Transportation acquired $100 million for the project in 2009 through the state's Jobs and Transportation Act, with the additional $20 million coming primarily from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

More than $7 million of the money went toward an extensive environmental impact study of the route, which was approved two years ago.

The construction's ultimate intent is to ease the flow for through-traffic, which ODOT officials say accounts for 45 percent of all traffic between Poplar Drive and Corey Road. Added congestion has driven up crash rates at several intersections along the way, often far above average, ODOT said.

The first phase of construction this summer will build the section from Poplar Drive to Vilas Road, along with an overpass over Coker Butte Road.

The second phase, expected to go to bid in February 2016 and start that spring, will build another overpass, over Vilas Road, and connect the final stretch to Corey Road. Sidewalks, bike lanes, park & rides and other improvements such as signal prioritization also will be built.

A third phase, which would tie the corridor into Interstate 5 and Highway 140, would bring the total project cost to an estimated $400 million. ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said a timetable for that portion is likely many years out and funding is not yet secured.

Reach reporter Ryan Pfeil at 541-776-4468 or rpfeil@mailtribune.com. Follow him at www.twitter.com/ryanpfeil.