State transportation officials won't mount a Supreme Court appeal, but will pursue another legal avenue to supply water for a proposed rest stop and welcome center outside Ashland.

State transportation officials won't mount a Supreme Court appeal, but will pursue another legal avenue to supply water for a proposed rest stop and welcome center outside Ashland.

Art Anderson, area manager for Oregon Department of Transportation, said ODOT still will try to tap into Ashland's water supply to receive about 2,400 gallons a day or enough for 6.4 households. The facility, which could cost up to $6.5 million, would use roughly the same amount of water as the Suncrest Rest Area in Talent.

Additional water to establish native vegetation would be provided through storm runoff reservoirs.

The rest stop would be located on an 18-acre property at milepost 12.5, south of Crowson Road on rural land just outside Ashland.

The state Court of Appeals recently upheld an earlier decision by the Land Use Board of Appeals that found ODOT couldn't circumvent state laws, specifically Goal 11, which makes it difficult for local governments to extend water service outside their boundaries. Transportation officials now will follow the process set out in the laws.

Neighbors have objected to the rest stop on a number of grounds such as increased noise, safety and unnecessary expense.

"This is a dumb idea," said Allen Baker, a neighbor who has been an outspoken critic of the proposal. "It's just crazy the amount of dollars needed to spend on this."

ODOT said the facility is needed for safety reasons, replacing a safety rest area shut down on the Siskiyou Summit in 1997.

Anderson said ODOT has discussed many of the objections raised by neighbors.

"We've bent over backwards in the things we've done to meet their concerns," he said.

ODOT has shown noise levels won't go up, the access to the area is fenced off and an office will be provided for the Oregon State Police, which should enhance security.

Baker said ODOT has done nothing for the neighbors. "They didn't change one line on the drawing."

He said neighbors will take their case to transportation officials at the state level.

It could be many months before ODOT completes the process to access the water. If approved, it could take another year and a half before work begins, Anderson said.

The rest stop would have Interstate 5 on- and off-ramps for motorists heading north. In addition to restrooms and landscaping, the site would also include a $2 million lodge-style welcome center that would be funded separately.

— Damian Mann