Merge lane is no more

I'm not sure if this comes under the jurisdiction of Medford or the county, but I hope that when they repaint the West Main Street/Columbus Avenue intersection, they correct a dangerous situation. It's long been a free-for-all here about 5 p.m., with some westbound traffic racing up the right lane (supposedly for right turns only), speeding through the intersection along the short "merge" section and the bike lane, hoping to get ahead of as many cars as possible. I've witnessed that some almost have run down bicyclists in the bike lane while trying to squeeze past a few more cars.

— Carol K., Jacksonville

The problem intersection you described has been addressed, Carol, but whether it resolves the problem depends on drivers obeying the new traffic markings.

According to Jackson County Engineer Mike Kuntz, westbound drivers who wish to continue on Main Street past Columbus now must do so in the left lane. The right lane is a right-turn only lane and the merge lane on the west side of Columbus is gone, replaced in part by a bike lane.

Previously, if you were in the right lane you could continue westward and merge with traffic once you crossed Columbus. But the short duration of the merge lane resulted in some rather aggressive attempts at getting ahead of the pack at the intersection. According to some reports, that's still occurring, as motorists who haven't figured out the change — or can't curb their testosterone — continue to charge through the intersection in the right lane.

That's particularly dangerous — not to mention illegal — now, because the new bike lane occupies a good portion of the former merge lane. The bike lane doesn't begin until the west side of Columbus, however, as there is no room on the east side, where the two traffic lanes still exist.

Johnny Cat Inc. of Jacksonville improved a nearly one-mile stretch from South Columbus Avenue to Oak Grove Road that includes sidewalks, bike lanes, storm drains and a continuous left-turn lane for the $2.76 million Jackson County project. The project is being paid for by state gas tax revenues, federal money and state transportation dollars.

One of the main goals is to reduce rear-end collisions. The county has tallied 57 accidents along this stretch since 1991, data that didn't even include accidents handled by Medford police or the Oregon State Police.

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