Road work ahead

Interstate 5 traffic will face a detour at Exit 19 Tuesday and Wednesday nights, causing minor delays as crews install steel beams on the new Valley View Road bridge, the Oregon Department of Transportation said.

Between 8 p.m. Tuesday and 5 a.m. Wednesday, all southbound I-5 traffic will be required to get off at Exit 19, Ashland's northern exit, drive over the old bridge and return to the freeway.

Northbound traffic will be diverted in the same manner between 8 p.m. Wednesday and 5 a.m. Thursday.

Drivers should expect delays of a few minutes, particularly between 8 and 10 p.m., on both nights, said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming.

"The impact on drivers should be pretty minimal, both for through traffic on the interstate and for people from Ashland," he said.

Drivers will still be able to come to and from Ashland via Exit 19 during the construction hours, he said. "The delays will be very small, but if people want to avoid them entirely, they can get off at Talent and come into Ashland on Highway 99," Leaming said.

Traffic will be reduced to one lane before it is funneled over the old bridge, he said. Crews will help flag drivers in the appropriate direction.

"Some words of wisdom to the public: Drive very carefully through the area and be aware that there will be flaggers and things will be very different at the nighttime hours for those two nights," Leaming said.

Crews from Oregon State Bridge Construction, which was contracted by ODOT to build the bridge, will install four large steel beams horizontally on the new bridge, to create its foundation on Tuesday and Wednesday nights.

A crane will be parked underneath the bridge to hoist the steel beams onto bearing pads already in place, Leaming said.

"We're basically picking up the beams and setting them down," he said. "But when you're picking up these large steel beams, you don't want traffic running underneath."

The project may cause some noise on Wednesday night as crews join sections of the bridge together with bolts, Leaming said. The construction shouldn't affect access to nearby businesses, he said.

The $5.7 million bridge project began last summer and is expected to be completed next January, Leaming said.

"The contractors are going at a pretty good clip," he said. "By this time next year, it should all be completed."

The new 60-foot-wide bridge will be 25 feet wider than the existing bridge to accommodate a center turn lane and shared shoulder lanes for bicycles.

Once the steel beams are in place, crews will divert traffic onto the new bridge, demolish the old bridge and complete the new bridge. Traffic will likely be diverted at the location twice more, for two nights each time, in the spring and summer, Leaming said.

Meanwhile, work to widen the Exit 14 bridge will likely cause traffic to be diverted there in the late winter or early spring, he said.

Both bridges will have an Art Deco theme, inspired by downtown Ashland architecture, and will be painted a light-tan color to match the surrounding landscape.

Although the construction may cause headaches for some drivers, ODOT is trying to reduce delays, Leaming said.

"This is necessary work, number one, and, number two, we're doing it at night to keep the impacts to drivers at a minimum," he said.

Contact reporter Hannah Guzik at 541-708-1158 or hguzik@dailytidings.com.

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