A $22.7 million construction project began this week on five aging freeway bridges near Ashland. Oregon Department of Transportation officials expect no delays during the year and a half of construction.




Bridges will be replaced at Eagle Mill Road (north and south bridges, two miles south of Valley View), over Bear Creek (north and south bridges, a mile north of Highway 66) and one bridge over Neil Creek Road, three miles south of town.




To avoid blocking any lanes, temporary bridges will be built in the median area, said Gary Leaming, ODOT spokesman in Medford.




"I don't see where this construction is going to be a big deal as far as inconveniencing the public &

no backups or delays, except at night it may be a single lane, but that will be few and far between," said Leaming.




The bridges were completed in 1966 for the opening of Interstate 5 and were designed for lighter trucking, he said.




Now, the bridges have felt the effects of 42 years of weather and traffic over designed load limits, Leaming said. New bridges will be built strong enough to handle all present loads and last 75 years, he said.




On Eagle Mill Road, traffic will sometimes be detoured to North Mountain Avenue, and a few residents living on the end of Neil Creek Road will be briefly kept from crossing under the freeway, he said. However, because it's in a snow zone, Neil Creek Road will be free from work between Nov. 15 and April 15.




Work on supporting piers anchored in Bear Creek will occur only between June 15 and Sept. 15. The new bridges will span the creek without piers in the habitat of anadromous fish, Leaming said.




Leaming warned drivers they will be closely monitored by Oregon State Police during the construction and receive double-fine tickets for violations.