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Gateway to 'mega corridor'

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A $6.25 million roundabout project next to Highway 140 in White City should open Aug. 28, giving motorists a glimpse of the northern gateway to what will become the Foothill Road “mega corridor.”

JRT Construction of Oakland will start paving work this week to connect to the existing highway so traffic flows directly to the roundabout, which will become the sixth traffic circle on a state highway in Oregon.

At a cost of $3.75 million, the roundabout portion of the project will connect later this summer to a new $2.5 million stretch of road that will provide easy access to Foothill Road. Motorists currently have to go from Foothill to Corey Road and then to Kershaw Road before they can get to the highway.

Jackson County already has finished its new $2.5 million road from Corey to the roundabout, though it won’t be open to traffic until after the roundabout is ready.

Both projects have been underway this summer and have resulted in relatively few slowdowns for motorists.

“It’s a relatively simple project, unlike the interchanges,” said Gary Leaming, Oregon Department of Transportation. “It’s pretty flat ground, away from neighborhoods, and the existing Highway 140 is isolated from the work.”

Motorists driving along Highway 140 will transition over to the new roundabout during the night of Thursday, Aug. 28. Anyone driving on the highway will go through the roundabout. Crews will continue working on the project until September or October to finish the connections to Atlantic Avenue and Foothill Road.

The 200-foot-diameter roundabout will handle the biggest semi-trucks on the road with gentle curves, flashing lights and signs to slow traffic down before motorists reach the traffic circle itself. The new roundabout is much larger than the roundabout at Highland Drive in east Medford and it’s also much more durable to handle the heavy loads of semi-trucks.

Kershaw Road, which is the current access to Highway 140 and is next to the Jackson County Sports Park, will have a barrier to block dangerous left turns onto the highway at this accident-prone intersection. A right turn from Kershaw will still be allowed. Motorists won’t be able to cross Highway 140 from Kershaw once the roundabout is built.

The roundabout, located about a mile east of downtown White City, is one key piece of long-range plans to what Medford Public Works officials refer to as a “mega corridor” along Foothill Road.

Eventually, the hope is to turn this road into an alternative route to Interstate 5 and a shortcut through east Medford.

The city of Medford is finalizing steps to widen Foothill to four lanes from Hillcrest to McAndrews Road and is working on plans to widen the road from McAndrews to Delta Waters.

Armed with a recently approved $15.5 million federal grant, the city, county and state will undertake a longterm $40 million plan to undertake improvements to Foothill.

“The Foothill corridor is a huge priority for the city and the county,” said John Vial, director of Jackson County Roads.

He said the county has provided $3 million toward improvements of the roadway through Medford.

A rough timeline for various projects along Foothill has 2022 as the target year to improve the roadway from Delta Waters Road to Dry Creek Road.

In 2023, crews should improve the section from Vilas Road to Corey Road.

The portion from Dry Creek to Vilas should be improved in 2024.

Outside the city limits the county roads will have a minimum speed limit of 45 mph and many of the sharper curves will be smoothed out.

“Over the next five years, we will have a constant presence on Foothill,” Vial said.

As part of Foothill improvement plan, the city is scheduled to build an extension of South Stage Road on the east side of the freeway. Longterm plans call for an overpass on I-5 to connect the west and east sections of South Stage Road and to create an east-west corridor from Foothill.

Ultimately Medford officials plan to have four lanes of traffic on Foothill Road within the city limits. From Barnett Road to Hillcrest Road, Foothill is already four lanes.

One choke point is the electrical substation on Foothill near McAndrews Road, but Medford road officials have been designing a way to thread the new four-lane road through the facility without the more expensive option of moving it.

In total, the projects that have already been completed combined with upcoming improvements to Foothill add up to more that $130 million from a combination of federal, state, county and city coffers.

Looking at the big picture, the southern gateway to Foothill Road and North Phoenix Road is the new interchange in Phoenix on Interstate 5.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on www.twitter.com/reporterdm.

Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune - ODOT Spokesman Gary Leaming stands in the center of the Highway 140 roundabout construction in White City Thursday.
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune - ODOT Spokesman Gary Leaming stands in the center of the Highway 140 roundabout construction in White City Thursday.