Oregon Department of Transportation’s Mark Grinde covers up an arrow sign directing traffic across Talent’s closed I-5 overpass Friday. The overpass will be closed for six weeks for an overhaul. Jim Craven 9/21/2007 - Jim Craven

Which way Talent?

TALENT — After many delays, Talent's freeway overpass was finally closed for resurfacing Thursday morning, but the city engineer says the signs around it are "confusing at best, misleading at worst."

City Engineer Joe Strahl alerted city and Oregon Department of Transportation officials in an e-mail, noting that on the closure's first day a motorist crashed through the five-foot high barricades on the overpass and planned to bill the state for tire damage.

Especially misleading, Strahl noted, are signs on Highway 99 saying "Exit 21 Talent Detour," with an arrow pointing motorists down West Valley View — toward the closed bridge.

Motorists on Highway 99 wanting to head south on I-5 from Talent may still go down Valley View and do that. They just can't cross the freeway on Valley View for the next six weeks. Motorists on Highway 99 wanting to go north should stay on 99 and get on the northbound freeway in Phoenix, he said.

Drivers trying to follow the signs are finding themselves at the Valley View barricade, having to make a u-turn to get back on 99, he said.

Also confusing, said Strahl, is the sign going away from the project on West Valley View, saying "Bear Creek Bridge Detour" and pointing motorists right on Highway 99.

"There are four or five 'Bear Creek Bridges' in the area, so that's confusing," said Strahl. "The signs need to be corrected and ODOT is doing it, but these things take time."

Approaching the bridge from the far side of the freeway, the "Bridge Closed" signs are well visible 500 feet before and at the barricades. The motorist who crashed through the barricades was apparently used to using the bridge at a fairly high rate of speed and reported her vision being obscured by the setting sun, said Lester Naught, Talent superintendent of public works.

"The signs are adequate and the driver should have been more aware," Naught said.

ODOT spokesman Gary Leaming agreed, saying "The project has multiple barriers. It's well marked as closed and most prudent drivers should have seen it was closed."

Whenever a well-used traffic pattern is changed, it's to be expected there will be a "shakedown period," Leaming said. "Any change is going to be upsetting to people and we will have to adjust."

ODOT and Talent officials met at the site Thursday afternoon to go over needed changes. On Friday afternoon, ODOT crews were masking a sign near Wal-Mart on Valley View that said "Merge Left For Bridge."

All signs and detours were presented to Talent and other officials at a pre-construction meeting, said Leaming, "and if they had concerns, we would like to have heard from them." The overpass was originally scheduled to be closed the day after Labor Day, but the contractor went through three weeks of on-again/off-again delays because of similar resurfacing work on the overpass south of Ashland, where the freeway exits onto Siskiyou Boulevard, said Leaming.

The changes in closure dates also confused motorists, Stahl said.

John Darling is a freelance writer living in Ashland. E-mail him at

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