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Mega-corridor work to start in 2023

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The transformation of Foothill Road into a “mega corridor” will start early in 2023 and take three years to complete. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
Traffic moves on Foothill Road Thursday near Lone Pine Road looking south toward McAndrews and Hillcrest roads in Medford. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]
The project, aimed at creating an alternative to I-5 in the event the freeway is damaged in an earthquake or other disaster, will turn a winding, narrow rural road into a modern thoroughfare. [Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune]

Foothill Road’s transformation into a “mega corridor” and bypass for Interstate 5 will kick into high gear in 2023.

Knife River Materials is the apparent low bidder for the 2-mile project that will turn the Medford portion of Foothill from a two-lane road into a four-lane corridor with turn lanes at intersections, bike lanes and sidewalks.

“The city is excited to get this project underway,” said John Vial, Medford Public Works director. “This is a project that has been discussed for decades.”

Work on Foothill will take place from Hillcrest Road to Delta Waters, but the county also has work planned north of Delta Waters.

Knife River’s bid is $56,432,118, and the only other bid came from K&E Excavating of Salem at $59,968,668.

In the Jackson County portion of Foothill from Delta Waters to Dry Creek Road, Knife River also was the low bidder, coming in at $6,658,671 for that section.

Oregon Department of Transportation, which is helping oversee the project, is currently reviewing Knife River’s Medford bid before awarding it.

ODOT is considering combining the two projects since Knife River was the apparent low bidder on both.

Vial said he anticipates work could begin in February or March 2023 and could take as long as three years to complete, though a schedule will be worked out with the contractor in the near future.

Knife River’s Medford bid is $11 million higher than what the city budgeted for the project, but Vial said the city is looking at delaying other projects to help fund the Foothill rebuild.

“The city is committed to building this project,” Vial said.

He said the other city projects that would be delayed haven’t been selected yet.

Vial said the city anticipated the Foothill widening project would be more expensive in light of escalating building costs that have hit the construction industry.

To finance the project, which will be built to the latest earthquake standards, the city received a $15.5 million federal grant, a $10 million loan, $3 million in other federal money and the remainder from the city’s capital budget for the project derived primarily from gas taxes.

Medford Water Commission also is paying to upgrade water lines in the area while construction is underway, and it will reimburse the city $5.5 million for that portion of the project.

Since this will be major construction to turn a country road into a modern thoroughfare, it will cause frequent traffic delays along Foothill for up to three years.

“We strongly advise citizens to avoid Foothill during construction,” Vial said.

Just past Delta Waters, the roadway will narrow to two lanes, but the county plans to smooth out the curves and generally make it a safer roadway.

“The current Foothill Road is narrow and windy, with lots of accidents,” Vial said. “It has needed to be upgraded for many years.”

The route will provide a shortcut from White City to Phoenix.

ODOT already has built two connections along the corridor, the North Phoenix interchange and the massive roundabout at Highway 140.

Called “mega corridor” by the city, this latest project is a collaboration between ODOT, Jackson County and Medford.

As part of the Foothill project, the city also plans to build a 1,000-foot section of roadway off North Phoenix Road that will eventually connect with South Stage Road once a bridge is built over I-5.

While the Foothill widening project is designed to offer an alternative route to the freeway in the event of a major earthquake that damages the I-5 viaduct, it would still have a difficult time handling that volume of traffic.

“Would it operate well, with all the big trucks? Probably not that well,” Vial said.

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