Lanes will be closed this summer on the I-5 viaduct that bisects Medford as road crews put down a new top layer on the roadway. (Mail Tribune file photo)

I-5 viaduct, Barnett bridge due for new coats

A two-month nighttime lane closure on the Interstate 5 viaduct in Medford will begin Thursday as crews prepare to put a concrete overlay on the bridge deck of the half-century-old span over the city core. In conjunction, and in a first for local state transportation officials, city of Medford police will station speed vans on the affected stretch to enforce reduced speed limits and improve safety for workers.

Signs went up this week giving motorists advanced warning, said ODOT spokesperson Gary Leaming. Beginning Thursday, June14, motorists will encounter a speed reduction – from 55 mph. to 45 mph – between 8 p.m. and 6 a.m. in the work zone, with an advisory speed of 35 mph also posted.

The viaduct work will be followed by work on the Barnett Road bridge over I-5, which will result in the bridge in south Medford being reduced to two lanes. The work on both projects is expected to be finished by summer’s end.

Leaming said work by contractor Carter and Company would begin on the north end of the viaduct and “head south.” Work will include use of a “shot blaster” that will clean and, essentially, vacuum the bridge deck to allow for any repairs necessary prior to overlay.

Leaming said contractors would clean and rehab some 10,000 square feet per night with the constantly moving operation and work limited to the nighttime hours to avoid traffic backup during daytime hours, especially at the beginning of summer vacation season.

“They’re going to have what sounds like a really smooth moving operation and the goal is to have everything opened by 6 a.m. each morning,” Leaming said. “Speed limit reductions will only be during nighttime hours when crews are present.”

Safety will be a priority, with extra signs and enforcement in addition to the single lane traffic and portable rumble strips to better guide motorists.

“Anytime we work on that viaduct, it’s very tight quarters and very unsafe for our workers. We are doing the work at night because, if we didn’t, traffic would back up to Portland,” Leaming said, only half-joking.

“Our contractor will be out there starting at 7 p.m. to set up so they’ll be in place to work by 8 p.m. The rumble strips will be put out every night and picked up every morning. At nighttime we’ll have reader boards to let motorists know, ‘Hey, you’re coming into a work zone and you need to slow down.’”

Leaming said permanent barriers were used when decking was redone in 2003, but required 24-hour lane closures for the duration of the project.

Medford Police Sgt. Don Lane said he hoped to see improved consideration by drivers in the work zone.

“When you talk to construction folks and people who work on that viaduct, you hear how concerning it can be,” Lane said. “Once you’re on the viaduct, there are no exit routes or shoulders for construction workers so there’s nowhere to jump to.

“ODOT reached out to us and we were glad to help. It really is all about safety and trying to get people to slow down. If they understand that we’ll have some enforcement out there, maybe it’ll get folks to think about what they’re doing and to watch their speed and watch out for our highway workers.”

After completion of deck resurfacing, Carter and Company will repair the deck for the overpass on nearby Barnett Road. That project will close half the bridge at a time, Leaming said. Drivers can expect single lane traffic in each direction during the construction, which will include daytime use of shot blasting to prepare the deck and to make needed repairs prior to a new concrete overlay being poured.

Total cost for both the viaduct and Barnett Road overpass project are $2.25 million with completion of both expected by September.

For more on the project, go to www.oregon.gov/odot/projects and type in “Medford” in the search field.

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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