ODOT plans for more city traffic

Interstate 5 exits 14 and 19 are slated to be rebuilt in the summer of 2009. Before that happens the Oregon Department of Transportation wants to plan for traffic management at two freeway exits into Ashland.

The Ashland City Council and the Ashland Planning Commission, in a joint study session on Tuesday night, 7 p.m. in the council chambers 1175 E. Main St., will listen to a presentation from ODOT about its plans.

Exit 19, on the north end of town, is in Jackson County but Ashland Mayor John Morrison has said it may be ripe for annexation. Additionally, one nearby property owner has filed a Measure 37 claim for a housing subdivision and another has plans for a project that could include a restaurant, a hotel and other travel services.

These factors lead ODOT to believe traffic will increase considerably at exit 19. According to a report it created about exit 19, it is already the busiest road in Jackson County, "due to significant volumes of intra-regional trips between Ashland and Medford."

"Based on existing density of development, possible future Measure 37 claims, significant intensification is almost certain to occur," the report says.

To mitigate this intensification, ODOT would like to increase South Valley View Road from two lanes to five.

Art Anderson, ODOT's area manager, has said his agency would prefer to see less commercial and residential development because these uses have the strongest effect on traffic patterns.

Future development won't be the issue at exit 14, which connects Ashland Street to Interstate 5, because it is already "built out," said Anderson.

But being built out causes its own set of planning problems. He said the issue at exit 14 could be consolidating access points.

There are several property owners who each have ingress and egress points to Ashland Street near the I-5 exit ramp, such as the AM/PM gas station, the Wild Goose Cafe and several motels. Anderson said the mix of entering and exiting traffic adds to the already busy road.

"Wouldn't it be easier to share the access points," he said. "If you had everything coming out of the same access points, you wouldn't have all the conflicts."

Anderson said consolidating access points could also be an issue at exit 19.

Before ODOT can proceed with its traffic plans, Anderson said they must first win the cooperation of Ashland, and in the case of exit 19, Jackson County as well.

"The first part is to get the city involved," Anderson said. "They need to have a dialogue with the property owners to purchase access rights to consolidate the access points. We can't get a plan adopted until the city has adopted it as part of their [comprehensive] plan."

In March, Morrison appointed an 11-member advisory committee that has been working with ODOT officials. Tuesday's meeting will be the first that will involve the council and the planning commission. ODOT will make a second presentation in Ashland on July 19.

Staff writer can be reached at 482-3456 x. 226 or .

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