Medford rethinks greenway path through town

When it comes to getting Bear Creek Greenway users across Barnett Road, the city of Medford wants to take another look at going under rather than over.

"Maybe we didn't exhaust all the options of going along the creek," said Brian Sjothun, parks and recreation director.

Bear Creek Greenway stakeholders selected a $2.3 million pedestrian and bicycle overpass to get the greenway path across busy Barnett, and the Medford City Council gave them the green light in November to design it.

OBEC, a Medford engineering consulting firm, produced seven options for crossing Barnett, ranging in costs from $1.7 million to $2.9 million. The bridge, which would cross Barnett at Highland Drive, was chosen by the Bear Creek Greenway committee and the Greenway Foundation, as well as the Oregon Department of Transportation and Jackson County. The other alternatives included putting the path under Barnett Road and crossing beneath the street at different sites.

But Sjothun said even though the other options are more complex, with environmental impacts and right-of-way acquisitions, they're worth considering.

"Maybe not the quickest and easiest is the best solution for all this," he said.

Parks department staffers are concerned that the long approaches required for the bridge option would limit the ability for driveway access off Highland Drive to the dog park area, should the city decide to redevelop that end of the park. Sjothun does not have a preferred option, however: "We're very neutral — we're Switzerland on this thing."

Construction of the 21-mile greenway along Bear Creek between Oak Street in Ashland and the Seven Oaks Interchange in Central Point has been occurring in small chunks since 1973. Things have picked up speed over the past decade, and the Barnett crossing will be the last link. The greenway comes into Medford from the south through the city's new sports park under construction. It will go under the freeway, following Bear Creek, and continue to Barnett near the new extension of Highland Drive. Without a bridge, pedestrians and cyclists would have to stop for traffic to cross Barnett Road — the only stop along the entire path.

If a bridge option is chosen, the Medford City Council will need to approve it because it would be built on public right of way within the city. Jackson County has $700,000 earmarked for the greenway, and other funding options are being explored.

Public Works Director Cory Crebbin said the city's staff would like more specific direction from the council defining the city's involvement in selecting and maintaining an option.

"There's questions over who is taking the lead," he said. As the greenway has been built in other cities, the construction projects have been managed by the county, then the responsibility of greenway maintenance is handed over to that city after the project is complete.

Sjothun is meeting this week with county staff and greenway stakeholders.

"We're going to hopefully have future talks with Jackson County about collaborative efforts to apply for grants," he said.

Reach reporter Meg Landers at 776-4481 or e-mail

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