The outdated Fern Valley interchange in Phoenix is about to get a major facelift a $72 million project that will take an estimated two years to complete. - Jamie Lusch

Fern Valley project nears starting line

PHOENIX — Work on the Fern Valley Road interchange will kick into higher gear by late January with a newly selected contractor on board for a $72 million rebuild of the failing freeway intersection.

A $34.5 million bid by Hamilton Construction, based in Coburg, was recently accepted by Department of Transportation officials.

Bids for the Fern Valley Road project ranged from the low bid by Hamilton to a more than $41 million bid by Parsons Construction of LaPine.

One of eight bidders, Hamilton Construction is no stranger to projects in the region, with credits running the gamut from bridges over Bear Creek to the realignment of the north Medford "Big X" intersection of highways 99 and 62 more than a decade ago.

Hamilton Construction President Scott Williams said his firm was excited to have another opportunity to work in the Rogue Valley.

"We're very familiar with the area and the people in the area and we're looking forward to the job ahead," Williams said. "Work on the project should start and we'll have an obvious presence down there by early next month."

Williams said the firm was already working to set up an office in the area near the interchange and would have "a noticeable amount of construction" taking place by February.

ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming said state officials were eager to move forward on the project after more than a decade of planning. That planning included a return to the proverbial drawing board in recent years to redesign the project after community concern about rights of way and impacts on downtown businesses.

Leaming said Hamilton Construction was a familiar entity to transportation officials.

"They're a really good contractor," he said. "They recently completed the Willamette River Bridge crossing (between Springfield and Eugene) and they've done a lot of work in our region including a bridge bundle near Ashland and the Big X interchange in Medford.

"Basically, they're a known Oregon contractor, they do good work and we're looking forward to working with them on this project."

In addition to right of way purchases, utility relocation and tree removal, Leaming said, state officials were using the final weeks before construction to focus on ensuring traffic flow during the project and to address any potential concerns.

Leaming urged community members to plan for the area to be under construction for two years.

"Construction is going to make things a little different in Phoenix for awhile," he said.

"We'll have temporary ramps in the interchange area and our plan is to keep things open and traffic moving but it is still going to be an active construction zone for two years or more so I would just encourage people to keep that in mind and have a little patience about them if they're traveling to or near the Phoenix area."

While transportation officials have already spent more than a decade on the project, Leaming said, the finish line was still in the distance.

"What you see in a video is nice but unfortunately, now, we have to now build it," he said. "We can't just lay the 3D graphics down and call it done."

Leaming said project coordinators would hold a still to be scheduled open house to ensure efforts are made to address traffic and business access concerns from community members.

Of the estimated $72 million budgeted for the project, half will go toward construction while other costs include design, right of way purchase, environmental studies and other expenses.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. E-mail her at

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