Part of a $72 million Oregon Department of Transportation project that's expected to tie up traffic on Interstate 5 has had its original start date — today — delayed due to a wet forecast this week.
ODOT officials said open-ditch work near exit 24, originally intended to start today, has been postponed because of water's effect on re-striping traffic lanes.
"The critical piece to this that the rain affects is the traffic control. You can't stripe when it's wet," ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said, explaining that the materials used in striping won't stick to wet pavement.
Leaming added that the excavation work that is planned isn't weather-dependent. General contractor Hamilton Construction of Springfield has delayed the work until the forecast clears up. An exact date for the postponed work to start hasn't been set yet.
"We're going to let the contractor make that call," Leaming said. "We'll get at least a day or two notice and then we'll pass that along."
The National Weather Service has said there is a chance of come-and-go rain showers for the Rogue Valley through the week, with temperatures ranging from the high 50s to mid 60s.
During the open-ditch work, workers will install a 4-foot-diameter stormwater pipe. The installation will close one lane of I-5 in each direction about a half-mile north of the Phoenix exit. Speeds for motorists will be reduced to 50 mph. The work is anticipated to take 25 days to complete.
During that time, ODOT is encouraging drivers to avoid the I-5 construction zone by using alternate routes such as Highway 99 or North Phoenix Road, or by taking a Rogue Valley Transportation District bus route. Drivers are also encouraged to give themselves extra time to reach their destination. Congestion is expected to peak during the morning and evening commute times.
The average daily traffic on the I-5 stretch between Phoenix and Medford is close to 38,000 vehicles, ODOT officials said.
The planned work near exit 24 is part of the ongoing Fern Valley Interchange project, the first diverging diamond interchange in the state, ODOT has reported. The full project has an estimated completion date of September 2016.
— Ryan Pfeil