Since You Asked

I've been using the new northbound I-5 off-ramp at Exit 27 in Medford and taking Highland Drive to East Main Street to get downtown. Lately it seems like the traffic is getting increasingly heavier and that the wait at the stop sign at Highland and East Main can take a really long time. If somebody is a bit timid, they can sit there for a long time. Does the city of Medford have any plans to add a traffic light there?

— Robert G., Ashland

In a word, Robert, no. In a few more words, no, not right away.

Cory Crebbin, Medford's director of public works, says his department doesn't have any hard data that traffic has increased dramatically — or at all — at that spot.

Now, some of the observant members of the Traffic Jam Division of Since You Asked agree with your observation. What used to take 10 seconds to clear now can take as long as a full minute! Horrors, time for an overpass — or at least a light.

But Crebbin says the current traffic load at the intersection could be partly the result of the closure of Barnett Road at Bear Creek. Drivers who normally would turn west at Barnett now continue north on Highland, eventually hitting the intersection that's giving you gas (or, actually, taking gas away from you). Crebbin says the city won't make a major change in a traffic situation when the problem could be the result of construction.

But he says his department will measure traffic next year to see what the traffic counts are on Highland, as well as the other major streets in the city. Traffic counts for streets occur every two years, on even-numbered years, while counts for intersections occur on the intervening odd-numbered years. If those counts show a big increase, lights could be in the future for the corner.

Interestingly, traffic loads in 2008 on Highland were actually lower than in 2004 — 18,100 per day on average compared with 21,000 in 2004. But the freeway off-ramp didn't open until the summer of 2009, so your problem may have cropped up after that.

There is one other solution, Robert: You could follow the traffic signs when you leave the freeway. They tell you to turn left and take Garfield to Highway 99 and then proceed to downtown rather than forging ahead toward Highland. Sigh, we guess transportation planners can point the horse toward water, but can't always make it drink.

Send questions to "Since You Asked," Mail Tribune Newsroom, P.O. Box 1108, Medford, OR 97501; by fax to 541-776-4376; or by e-mail to We're sorry, but the volume of questions received prevents us from answering all of them.

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