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I-5 off-ramp in south Medford to be widened

Road work on the Interstate 5 Exit 27 off-ramp will widen the ramp over the next three weeks. The project will increase the amount of traffic the ramp can hold.(photo courtesy of the Oregon Department of Transportation).

The Interstate 5 southbound off-ramp at Exit 27 will be slightly narrowed for three weeks starting Sunday night as crews work to widen the ramp in a privately funded project designed to relieve traffic flow at the interchange.

The width of a 300-foot stretch of the ramp will be increased by as little as six feet and as much as 24 at about the halfway point. The widened ramp will help prevent traffic from backing up nearly all the way to the freeway by making enough room for right-turning traffic to squeeze through rush-hour traffic jams.

“Most of the traffic coming off wants to turn left toward the medical facilities in east Medford,” said Oregon Department of Transportation spokesman Gary Leaming said. “So this will extend those dual left-turn lanes. Because as it is right now traffic bunches up on those left-turn lanes and no other traffic can get through, so we’re trying to avoid that traffic from going back toward the high-speed traffic of the interstate.”

Central Point contractor Knife River Materials will handle the entire project, starting with placing concrete barriers Sunday night. Once the excavation is completed, the barriers will be removed and the paving will begin. The scheduled completion date is May 14.

The work is being done at night to minimize its impact on traffic, since dump trucks will be going to and from the ramp throughout the project. Once completed, the ramp will accommodate a much larger traffic flow than it was originally designed to when the interchange was built 12 years ago.

“It should help significantly,” Leaming said. “The reason for this … since the interchange was built in 2009 we’ve seen a lot more development in south Medford. Especially some of the commercial interstate, medical facilities have gone up, obviously (Rogue Valley Manor) is wanting to expand and the reason for this project — it’s part of their mitigation for some of the development that they’re planning on building on their property.”

Rogue Valley Manor is covering the entire cost of the project, from the design to the work itself. The plans were approved by ODOT.

“Frankly, we’re an agent of inspecting the ramp,” Leaming said. “We’re pleased they’re doing it. This was an agreed upon project for their future development, but as we all know since the interchange was built a lot more development has come into the interchange area in south Medford. A lot of comments I anticipate are, ‘Why are you building something on the brand new ramp?’ Well, the brand new ramp is 12 years old. If it was a child it would be in middle school right now. Since then there has been a lot of development in the interchange area, especially over on that east side and in the interstate commercial area.”

According to Sarah Lynch, the vice president of administration for Pacific Retirement Services, Rogue Valley Manor’s parent company, the Manor is funding the project to increase the number of peak-hour trips the interchange can handle. The Manor has a stake in the project because it owns a property at 1020 Ellendale Dr. That piece of property is up for sale, Lynch said, and is only part of a commercial village, which the Manor is planning to develop.

“The trip cap applies to the entire commercial village, not just that property,” she said.

The construction would, according to Lynch, increase the trip cap associated with that development to 486 peak-hour trips from the current 192.

“I think that the south Medford area is undoubtedly growing,” she said, “and this is one little piece to help accommodate that growth.”

Joe Zavala can be reached at 541-821-0829 or jzavala@rosebudmedia.com.