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Foothill project hits milestone

Medford City Council authorizes 60 right-of-way purchases to allow the widening of the road to four lanes between Hillcrest and Delta Waters roads
Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune Foothill Road, looking south from the intersection of East McAndrews Road in Medford, is being widened as part of a “mega corridor” project.

The transformation of Foothill Road into a “mega corridor” took a major step toward reality Thursday night.

A unanimous Medford City Council authorized the last of 60 right-of-way purchases to allow the widening of the road to four lanes along with a center turn lane between Hillcrest and Delta Waters roads.

“This is a bit of a milestone,” said Councilor Kevin Stine.

The mega corridor, which is a collaboration between the Oregon Department of Transportation, Jackson County and Medford, is intended to provide an alternative north-south route to Interstate 5 by improving Foothill and North Phoenix roads, creating a shortcut from White City to Phoenix.

The new roadway is partially an attempt to create a new thoroughfare in case the area sustains damage from a major earthquake. The viaduct — the elevated portion of Interstate 5 through Medford — could fail if an earthquake strikes the region.

With the latest right-of-way purchase, the city has made $2.8 million in payments to property owners for land and easements without resorting to eminent domain.

In 2019, the council approved $20,500,000 toward the widening project and right-of-way acquisition.

The last purchase of a property at Cedar Links and Foothill will allow the construction of an intersection with signals.

To accomplish the land deal, the city paid the property owner $233,186.

Most of the money — $191,036 — was used to reconfigure the driveway, build retaining walls, remove two septic tanks and hook the property to city sewer, according to Ken Parducci, the city’s right-of-way manager. The remainder was used to purchase a portion of the property.

ODOT, the project manager for the mega corridor, is expected to receive bids for the project by the end of the year, with construction starting sometime after the beginning of 2023.

Construction is expected to last until 2026, creating potential delays for motorists through the area.

Once completed, the portion of Foothill Road through Medford, including portions already completed south of Hillcrest, will have four travel lanes and a center turn lane.

However, some areas may not have the turn lane, particularly where the roadway narrows through an electrical substation near Lone Pine Road. Parducci said the bike and pedestrian lane that will be built along with the widening project was also shifted to the west to avoid the substation.

In addition to the signal at Cedar Links, the city plans to install a signal at the south Foothill off-ramp from McAndrews Road.

The widening will end to the north of Delta Waters Road, but Jackson County has plans to smooth out many of the sharper curves along Foothill with a minimum speed limit of 45 mph through some portions.

ODOT has already built a massive roundabout where Foothill meets Highway 140 near White City. At the south end of the mega corridor, ODOT built the new Phoenix interchange and improved surrounding streets, including North Phoenix.

In total, the mega corridor project will cost about $130 million, including the major portions already completed, from federal, state, county and city coffers.

As part of the Foothill improvement plan, the city is scheduled to build an extension of South Stage Road on the east side of the freeway. Long-term 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.

Reach freelance writer Damian Mann at dmannnews@gmail.com.