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Don't expect to get 'In-N-Out'

In-N-Out’s first store in Oregon may attract an onslaught of visitors from all over the state, and Medford officials are bracing for up to 300 cars and waits of three to four hours on opening day.

“I know I wouldn’t wait in line for that long, but some people will,” said Alex Georgevitch, city transportation manager.

Georgevitch and other city officials met with In-N-Out representatives recently to discuss a traffic plan to prevent backups on Highway 62 or even onto nearby Interstate 5. The Oregon Department of Transportation has expressed concern about potential traffic problems on the freeway or off-ramps.

In-N-Out hasn’t disclosed when it plans to open the store, but unofficial reports indicate it may be Sept. 9. Hours of operation haven’t been released yet, but the Redding fast food restaurant is open from 10:30 a.m. to 1 a.m., and until 1:30 a.m. on weekends.

Finishing touches are being applied inside the Medford store. Many of the new employees have been hired, and an “all-star” team of top employees will be sent to Medford to handle the opening and train the new hires, according to a store official who declined to give his full name. Some of the dry ingredients already have been delivered.

Because In-N-Out’s burgers are fresh, not frozen, the meat is expected to be delivered the night before.

Georgevitch said the city has the ability to adjust the timing on traffic signals, which might be necessary if traffic starts backing up onto Highway 62 or some other entrances into Rogue Valley Mall.

In addition, the police department will monitor the area and alert Medford Public Works of any traffic concerns. Traffic-signal timing can be adjusted from City Hall.

Georgevitch said In-N-Out’s traffic plan is able to handle a large number of vehicles, and the company has a backup plan to handle even more within the mall parking lot area. The plans he saw would handle 200 to 300 cars, he said.

“We’re dealing with a fairly sophisticated company and a fairly sophisticated business model,” Georgevitch said.

In other communities, when In-N-Out opened, traffic jams ensued.

A 2008 article in the Los Angeles Times described extensive traffic problems at many stores, a situation In-N-Out officials said they were working on at the time.

But a 2010 article in the Press-Democrat in Santa Rosa, Calif., portrayed opening day for a new store as a traffic nightmare, particularly around a busy intersection next to the freeway on Highway 101. That was the third store to open in the Santa Rosa area.

Georgevitch said the city’s concern is with traffic issues that affect streets, not issues inside the mall property.

The city isn’t sure how many people will show up opening day, but it has received calls from all over Oregon, including from Pendleton, according to Bill Hoke, city manager protem.

Hoke said the hamburger chain has a sizable, almost cult-like following.

“I know people who live in Medford and go to Redding to get a hamburger,” he said.

The mall has multiple points of access that could be used by motorists heading to the popular fast-food chain, he said.

After looking over the traffic plan, he said it appears that In-N-Out knows what it’s doing.

“We’re comfortable with the plan they’ve put together,” he said.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@mailtribune.com. Follow on Twitter at @reporterdm.

Medford's In-N-Out restaurant will open with its own traffic management plan due to anticipated crowds. Mail Tribune / Bob Pennell