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Freeman Road work turns some drivers into barrier busters

CENTRAL POINT — Crews have resumed work on the $2 million reconstruction of Freeman Road after a month-long delay that prompted some motorists to ignore, or even move, construction barriers.

Discovery of a 700-foot asbestos cement water line below the surface of the antiquated arterial brought the project to a halt last month as city officials scrambled to find unanticipated parts — and funding — for the additional work.

Recent weeks found motorists, seemingly annoyed with extended road closure, ignoring road barriers and neighboring residents complaining of dust from vehicles driving on closed portions of stripped down road.

"There have definitely been a lot of confused motorists. What was annoying to me was (the city) putting one of these closed signs way down the road so there's probably been 30 to 40 people an hour coming too far down," said property owner Nick Torrano, who took advantage of a quiet Friday morning to work on one of several properties he owns along Freeman Road.

Torrano said there had been no shortage of motorists moving barriers or finding themselves confused after turning down closed off access roads along Freeman.

"The road barrier at the other end, people keep moving it. It's just been a big mess."

Parks and Public Works Director Matt Samitore said that once crews resumed work, instances of motorists passing or relocating barriers had drastically diminished and that city officials were hopeful the project would be completed without further delays.

Samitore admitted that having motorists disregard road barriers was a first for the city.

"We were in a delay on the construction so people were not worried about cutting through, so it seemed," Samitore said, noting that city police would keep an eye on the area and would not hesitate to issue citations.

On Friday at least three vehicles drove around barriers in the span of 30 minutes.

"With construction started back up, we absolutely do not want people driving through an active construction zone," Samitore said. "It is not only dangerous for them but for the crews and it creates even more dust for the residents in that area."

Reconstruction of the 125-year-old roadway, which is a main north-south connector in the city, began in March with partial funding from Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) dollars. Aimed at encouraging alternative transportation and reducing dust, the project will install bike lanes and sidewalks on Freeman Road between the Mountain View Shopping Center and Hopkins Road, widen the existing two-lane road to make room for a continuous center left turn lane and install curbs, gutters and sidewalks on both sides of the street. There are also storm system improvements being made in the area.

Samitore said the asbestos cement water line discovered last month, built in the 1960s, was not buried at the proper depth to ensure the line would not rupture under a new roadway. 

"When they built that water line, they hit some really hard rock and instead of bringing in a bigger excavator they left the water line more shallow and closer to the street," he explained, noting that the additional work added some $200,000 to project cost. Asbestos cement water lines are in common use across the country, although they have not been installed in the past two decades. Samitore said the pipe is safe when it's wet, but can pose health risks if it is cut into or broken when it's dry and exposed to the open air.

"Because it's an asbestos pipe, we can't reinforce it so that left us with 700 feet of water line that now had to be replaced that we did not anticipate going into this project. The last thing we want is a multi-million dollar street project to fail because of an old water line breaking underneath."

Torrano said he will be glad to see the project completed.

"When it's over it's going to look really good and it'll make the whole neighborhood look 10 times nicer, which is great," Torrano said.

"I'm happy that they're doing it, and it's going to make the housing values go up quite a bit, but the dust and lack of parking is a real pain. I know everyone will be glad when it's finally done."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com

Constructions work has resumed on Freeman Road in Central Point after a frustrating month-long delay that saw drivers removing construction barriers to pass through. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch
Nick Tarrano, who owns several homes near Freeman Road, says construction has caused some confusion with detours but will benefit the area in the long run. Mail Tribune / Jamie Lusch