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Talent takes over West Valley View project

TALENT — A half-million-dollar project to upgrade West Valley View Road from the Bear Creek Bridge to Highway 99 is expected to provide greater protections for pedestrians and cyclists.

Talent City Council approved an agreement July 18 with the Oregon Department of Transportation that will put the city in change of the project and transfer federal funds that will cover most of the cost.

“It will stand out in the valley,” Community Development Director Zac Moody told the council. “A lot of cities avoid these projects because they are costly.”

The project was approved in 2015 after being vetted in the community.

The existing roadway will be converted from four or five lanes to three lanes, including a center turn lane. Buffered bike lanes on both sides of the roadway will provide better access to the Bear Creek Greenway. The roadway will be resurfaced.

Both the city’s Transportation System Plan and the Interstate 5 Exit 21 Interchange Area Management Plan identify the project for bike and pedestrian safety based on accident data and potential crashes. Cost was estimated by ODOT to be $495,221. The city must pay 7.8 percent of expenses as a match.

Separated bicycle lanes with concrete bioswale barriers between bikes and vehicles are shown in a conceptual plan. The bioswales would add stream protection to Wagner Creek. Rapid-flashing beacons for pedestrians may be installed where the road crosses Wagner Creek. Future trails are envisioned along the creek both north and south of the crossing.

City control of the project will eliminate some ODOT costs, leaving more money for the city to provide enhanced features, such as the bioswales, said Moody. The city’s contract engineer likely will begin design on the product this fall. Match money is in the current fiscal-year budget.

Some council members raised concerns about the project’s lane reductions, but Mayor Darby Ayers-Flood noted the project already had gone through a community approval process.

“This decision was made a while ago. Funds have already been allocated,” said Ayers-Flood. “This was a long process that went on for years.”

Councilors noted that Phoenix reduced its Main Street from two vehicle lanes to one in 2016 but is now looking at reversing that arrangement. Councilor John Harrison said loss of a turn lane from West Valley View onto Highway 99 may back up traffic.

“It feels like a done deal. We don’t need to do a project like this,” said Councilor Ken Baker.

A deceleration lane might be created west of Hinkley Road to serve Talent Truck Stop. Hinkley Road is located between a Chevron station and the truck stop, which recently resumed diesel refueling operations. Property owners plan to expand and update the truck stop to serve both big rigs and passenger vehicles with a 24-hour restaurant, convenience store and fueling islands.

Work on Highway 99 from Rapp Road to Creel Road in town is proceeding on time and completion is expected by the end of September, said ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming.

Underground utility and storm drain work is finished and crews are installing sidewalks, curbs and gutters. An asphalt overlay will be done in September and the road restriped to create a center turn lane and two traffic lanes with adjacent bike lanes.

Most work on Highway 99 from Creel Road to Ashland city limits, a second part of the ODOT project, is nearly finished. Except for an area from Jackson Road to just past South Valley View Road, the highway has been reduced to two lanes with bike paths and a center turn lane in most sections.

Reach Ashland freelancer Tony Boom at tboomwriter@gmail.com.

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