Oregon Department of Transportation predicts traffic on Interstate 5 could back up for up to two miles when crews start installing a big stormwater pipe beneath the freeway north of Phoenix next week.
Open-ditch work, set to start Monday, April 21, will close one lane of I-5 in each direction about a half mile north of exit 24, ODOT officials said in a news release. Median work and the closure of the fast lanes is expected to start Monday evening, ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said.
Speeds will be reduced to 50 mph for the 25 days the work is expected to take, the news release said.
ODOT is encouraging local drivers to avoid the interstate through the construction zone by using alternate routes such as Highway 99 or North Phoenix Road or taking a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus.
Average daily traffic on the stretch of I-5 between Medford and Phoenix is nearly 38,000 vehicles, ODOT reports.
"If we don't get local traffic off the freeway, we will see long backups," Leaming said.
Drivers on the interstate should expect significant congestion. They should avoid peak morning and evening commute times, if possible, and give themselves ample time to reach their destination, Leaming said.
The installation of a 4-foot-diameter stormwater pipe is the first part of the ongoing $72 million Fern Valley Interchange project to have a major effect on traffic, ODOT said.
The interchange project has an estimated completion date of September 2016. When it's finished, Exit 24 will be the first diverging diamond interchange in the state, ODOT reported.