Medford considers $84 million viaduct project

A truck drives over the viaduct in Medford (Georgia Lawson/News 10)

The City of Medford is considering a $84 million project to widen and retrofit the I-5 viaduct, and not everyone is happy about it.

More than 53,000 drivers pass through the section of freeway between the two Medford exits daily. If you're one of them, you're familiar with how driving changes as you navigate the narrow and winding viaduct, where cars are encouraged to stay in one lane.

The Oregon Department of Transportation has been eyeing this strip of freeway for years, first appearing before the City of Medford in February of 2015. They began a study on the project and Thursday night they return to the council with their findings and a proposal.

ODOT examined a number of possible ways to proceed in upgrading safety features of the strip, including rerouting, rebuilding, and retrofitting the structure. They decided the latter would be the most cost effective option, and created a plan to retrofit the viaduct, built in the 1960's, with 28 foot expansion to the east. This would widen both lanes and shoulders, and allow for a potential increase to three lanes in the future to keep up with projected population growth.

Some drivers said the extra room could be helpful.

“If you’re speeding, yes, it’s too tight. If you’re going the speed limit it’s just fine. If you’re my age and younger, it’s fine. For 75 to 85-year-olds, I don’t know, so it would be an age concern for me," Medford resident Stephanie Cruz said.

Other residents are concerned not about the lanes as they are now, but rather the impacts of the project itself.

One lawsuit is pending for a piece of land that ODOT seeks to acquire for the project. The plot had been approved for a 108 unit multi-family apartment complex on Almond St that would not be able to proceed as planned. ODOT suggested that they could find a middle ground, but that is currently tied up in litigation. Other land ODOT may need to secure includes portions of Hawthorne Park.

Additional remaining questions include how to fund the project. There has been no budget set aside for the $84 million project, which is the cheapest of the alternatives considered. Funding could be derived from federal resources, but nothing has been secured as of now.

The council will give their input Thurs., March 14 at 6 p.m. The meeting is located at city hall and is open to the public.

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