Ashland takes on a million-dollar intersection project

Ashland plans to spend about $1 million in city and federal money to fix a dangerous intersection this summer — a move that will pave the way for a controversial project to reduce car lanes on North Main Street as it comes into town.

The Ashland City Council approved a $599,345 contract this week with Pilot Rock Excavation for construction work where Hersey and Wimer streets join North Main.

The two side streets, which are on opposite sides of North Main, do not line up with each other.

That causes near-collisions and sometimes crashes as cars try to negotiate tricky left-hand turns off North Main onto Hersey and Wimer.

About $400,000 could be spent for engineering, consulting, electrical costs and right-of-way acquisition for the intersection project, city officials estimate.

The city is continuing negotiations over acquisition of private property for the project, city officials said this week.

Federal funding will cover $682,696 of the estimated $1 million project. The city will delay repaving Taylor and Wightman streets for up to five years to have money for its share of the intersection realignment project.

"This will help us get rid of a really problematic intersection," Mayor John Stromberg said.

Councilor Russ Silbiger was the only member to vote against approving a contract for construction work during Tuesday's meeting.

"The costs have gone beyond what I'm comfortable with," Silbiger said.

Construction on the realignment could begin as early as July 9, said Engineering Services Manager Jim Olson.

The city hopes to complete the realignment project by mid-August, said Public Works Director Mike Faught.

The city then plans to move forward on a $130,000 project to re-stripe North Main Street as it comes into town, Faught said.

The Oregon Department of Transportation is providing $115,000 for that project, he said.

Known as a "road diet," the re-striping will reduce the number of car lanes on North Main Street between Jackson Road and Helman Street, making more room for bike lanes.

While some residents have welcomed the change, others have said it will lead to more traffic congestion on North Main Street and in surrounding neighborhoods.

Olson said there may be lane closures on North Main Street this summer as crews work on the Wimer and Hersey realignment project, which may lead to traffic congestion and delays.

Olson said those lane closures should not be used as a way to preview whether the "road diet" will cause traffic problems.

"That wouldn't be a fair comparison. This will be a short channelization of traffic with construction going on," he said.

The North Main "road diet" is independent of a proposal in Ashland's Transportation System Plan to reduce Main Street to two lanes as it travels through downtown. The transportation plan likely will go before the council at year end.

Reach Ashland Daily Tidings reporter Vickie Aldous at 541-479-8199 or

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