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Fern Valley Interchange
DRAFT MEETING MINUTES
  Meeting Date: Wednesday, March 3, 2004
 
Purpose: Fern Valley Interchange Project
Citizen Advisory Committee Meeting
 
Distribution: CAC Members, Solution Team Members
 
From: John Morrison, RVCOG
 
Prepared by: Pat Foley, RVCOG
 
Date Prepared: March 8, 2004
 
CAC Attendees: Bill Rombach, Dack Doggett, Pauly Hinesly, Wendie Nichols, Bob Korfhage, Lee Carrau (for Harry Page), Mark Gibson, Joan Haukon, George Cota, David Lowry, Dan Sauro, David Lewin
 
CAC Absent: None
 
Project Team Attendees:
 
Greg Holthoff, ODOT Environmental Project Manager
 
Debbie Timms, ODOT Project Manager
 
Nancy Reynolds, URS Corp. Project Manager
 
Sheila North, URS Corp. Deputy Project Manager
 
Gary Leaming, ODOT Public Involvement
 
Art Anderson, ODOT Rogue Valley Area Manager
 
Brian Sheadel, ODOT Senior Designer
 
John Morrison, RVCOG
 
Pat Foley, RVCOG
 
Other Attendees: Jim Wear, Russ & Eloise Barry, Richard L. Croly, Ancel & Nancy Rosecrans, Terry Helfrich, Moe Miller, Colleen Hansen, Kim Hansen, Eileen Padilla, John Deller, David Deller, Lee Brennan, James Roos, Sam Fung, Linda Ellebruch
  1. Call to order and Introductions
  • John Morrison, RVCOG Facilitator
  • John called the meeting to order at 6:30 p.m. He explained that this is the first meeting of the Fern Valley CAC and is an informative meeting. John reviewed the agenda. John asked each member of the CAC and Project Team Members to introduce themselves and to state their interest(s) in this project.
  • Greg Holthoff, ODOT Project Environmental Manager
  • Gary Leaming, ODOT, Project Information
  • Mark Gibson, Siskiyou Transportation and Southern Oregon Representative for the Board of Directors for the Oregon Trucking Association
  • Joan Haukon, Neighborhood Representative
  • Dan Sauro, Phoenix City Councilor and lives in Bear Lake Estates
  • George Cota, Developer on the east side of the freeway
  • Wendie Nichols, Manager of Coleman Creek Estates
  • David Lowry, Property Owner
  • Bill Rombach, Phoenix Property, Business Center
  • David Lewin, Phoenix Planning Commission
  • Bob Korfhage, East side resident and Siskiyou Velo Bicycle Club, President
  • Pauly Hinesly, Concerned Citizen
  • Dack Dogget, Store Manager, Ray’s Food Place
  • Lee Carrau, Phoenix Planning Commission, sitting in tonight for his neighbor Harry Page who is a member of the Talent-Phoenix School Board
  • Debbie Timms, ODOT Project Leader
  • Sheila North, URS Corp. Deputy Project Manager
  • Nancy Reynolds, URS Corp., under contract with ODOT to write the environmental document
  • Art Anderson, ODOT Rogue Valley Area Manager
  • Pat Foley, Rogue Valley Council of Governments
  • John Morrison, Rogue Valley Council of Governments, Facilitator.
  1. Citizen Advisory Committee Role and Responsibilities John Morrison reviewed the role and responsibilities of the CAC.
    • The CAC is a group comprised of concerned citizens, landowners, and representatives of local jurisdictions. Basically, a cross-section of community interests.
    • The CAC serves as a forum where ideas and issues are talked over.
    • The CAC is a community "sounding board".
    • The CAC advises the Project Solution Team from the citizen and community perspective and to insure the interests and issues gained from your local knowledge get brought into this process.
    • The CAC’s primary responsibilities are to attend the monthly meeting, assist in identification of project and community issues, to discuss project activities with people in the community and bring back those ideas, provide input on project goals and objectives, discuss and evaluate potential solutions and make project recommendations to the Project Development Team.
  2. Project Description and Background

    Debbie Timms, ODOT Project Manager
    The City of Phoenix conducted corridor studies in 1998/99. Those studies indicated there was a need for increased capacity. Out of those studies came the idea that at least a 4 or 5 lane section for Fern Valley Road was needed in order to handle the growth that has occurred on both the east side of the freeway and in southeast Medford. In the year 2000 the State and the City of Phoenix agreed to use an allocated $2.45M to construct a temporary interim fix to the interchange. These funds were used to 1) install signals at ramp terminals, 2) move Luman Road and North Phoenix Road connections to Fern Valley Road away from the ramp, and 3) put a cul de sac at Pear Tree Lane. These improvements are for safety and operation purposes only. There were cars queuing up on the northbound off ramp onto the I-5 corridor. Knowing that the entire interchange was going to need a bigger fix and more dollars, we are now starting an environmental process to look at the entire interchange area. We need to think about how we are going to widen this structure to 4 or 5 lane crossing. The Bear Creek Bridge needs to be replaced. Operationally it is not working. Currently we have state and federal dollars, and the city has also contributed $1M, to do any construction that we decide on through this process on the west side of the interchange. We are also looking for federal dollars that will allow us to work on the entire interchange area. The environmental process will help to determine what needs to be fixed.

    Questions and Comments:


    The county’s Bear Creek Bridge is on the top of the list for funding. The Fern Valley Interchange Bridge is not funded at this time.
    Noise and air quality will be a part of the broad based study and will cover the east side of the freeway and the housing located there. More direct impacts of natural resources will not cover the housing area, i.e. socio-economic and land use.

    What is the difference and ramifications between 4 or 5 lanes? Cost. Five lanes would allow for left turns. Four lanes would provide one as a through lane and one for left turn. Selecting the best alternative will be a part of this process.
    The design done in 1998 need to be updated to meet today’s design standards and to meet twenty-year design criteria.
  3. Overview of the NEPA Process

    Greg Holthoff, ODOT Environmental Project Manager

    Studies have been done in the past but today we are starting with an open book. The reason this study has begun is that anytime there is a discussion on a project of this magnitude federal dollars and federal decisions are involved. Each time there is a connection to federal decisions or dollars, it is required that National Environmental Policy Act Process (NEPA) be followed.

    NEPA was signed into law in 1970. A lot of other landmark environmental legislation came out at that time such as the Clean Water Act and the Endangered Species Act. Greg touched on the history of NEPA. It took eight years to write the regulations and to implement this law. This is the process that the Project Team is going to follow.

    Implementation of NEPA has three different categories of actions. Categorical Exclusions (CatExs) are collective classes of actions of improvements that do not cause significant impact on the environment. CatExs are the lowest level of actions that an agency can have. An Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) is the class of action that will have major impact and must go through the EIS process. The Fern Valley project is a class of action that is not classified as a CatEx or something that needs an EIS. We are going to do an Environmental Assessment (EA). When an EA process is finished your product is either what is called a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI), which means you have done all of the environmental studies necessary, or your determination could be that you will have to write an Environmental Impact Statement.

    The Federal Highway Administration is the lead agency for NEPA. ODOT is acting on behalf of the Federal Highway Administration.

    NEPA serves as an umbrella for other federal legislation such as the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act and Clean Air Act. Today is the opening of what we call our scoping process. NEPA is divided into segments. In this process we will define what the problems are and orient everybody as to what their roles are in the process. The Purpose and Need Summary is a part of the scoping process. At the end of the scoping process we will brainstorm solutions to address all of the problems that have been discussed. When a broad set of alternatives have been developed we need to narrow the alternatives down to reasonable range of study. We encourage one to three alternatives. The no build option always has to be addressed. No-build serves as a baseline for comparison. Once the reasonable range of alternatives are selected, we do a draft EA. The draft EA studies potential impacts of the alternatives in different subject areas - air, water, biology, HazMat, land use, historic resources, archeology, and wetlands, and others. When the draft EA is finished there will be a 30-day comment period. There will be a public hearing or public meeting. All comments received from the public and regulatory agencies will be assessed. There will probably be changes made to the EA based on these comments. Another document will be produced which is called the Revised Environmental Assessment. This document will identify a preferred alternative.

    Questions and Comments:

    Timeline for an EA: An EA typically takes 2 years. This project is set up on an 18-month schedule right now. Once NEPA is finished the final design and the right of way process can begin.

    The right of way and design process typically takes from 18 months to 2 years. Right now the year 2007 is the planned construction date. We are assuming construction, but a no- build alternative is a valid consideration.

    The noise and soot are horrific throughout Bear Lake Estates. Is it possible when the environmental study is done for a sound barrier to go up that would divert the sound? The noise is a pre existing condition. I do not know if noise mitigation will be a recommendation. It will be looked into.

    The Manager of Bear Lake Estates pointed out that the entrance to Fern Valley Road is the only entrance and exit for the park. There are concerns among residents about making Fern Valley Road into a four or five lane road.
    In regard to putting in another interchange at South Stage Road:

    Art Anderson, ODOT Area Manager. There are stipulations that must be studied. The first thing that the Federal Highway Administration looks at is whether you have maxed out the capacity of your existing interchanges. If you haven’t, you have to do that first. Then they can look at capacity issues and an interchange at a new location may be warranted. The Federal Highway Administration has general standards for spacing. In urban areas interchanges have to be spaced one mile apart and two miles apart in rural areas.

    Art Anderson; Every 6 years reauthorization of the Transportation Equity Act occurs. Fern Valley is one of the projects in the state that is considered as a federal earmark. The reauthorization process is happening right now. There is $20M on the table that our senators have been fighting for. If we receive funding we can finish the entire project at one time.
  4. Purpose and Need Statement
Nancy Reynolds, URS Corp Project Manager

Nancy explained that when doing an environmental study there are many pieces that go into it. One of the first things done in the process is the Purpose and Need Statement. The Purpose and Need Statement is dictated by federal law. It has to be demonstrated through this process that there is a need. There is a sense that there are a number of existing problems. We have to have more information to demonstrate that the solution we are going to be developing meets those needs. The Purpose and Need Statement is going to drive the whole process, i.e., the development of alternatives and what solutions are looked at. We have to have a technical basis in order say these alternatives are going to solve these problems. The final selected alternative is based in large part on how well it satisfies Purpose and Need. The present draft Purpose and Need Statement is to get us started. It is an organic document. We will refine this document as we gather new information. Members of the CAC, will try and solve as many of the problems as they can based on the Project and Need Statement that is developed.

The "Purpose" portion of the statement indicates in very general terms what the purpose is.

The "Need" portion is more in depth.

Examples of potential "Needs":

1. We know there is congestion at the interchange. We know there is some queuing at the interchange. What we don’t have is a traffic study that identifies where the turning movement problems are and where queuing occurs. Once we have this data we need to predict what is going to happen in twenty years. As we get new data we will be changing the Purpose and Need Summary to say these are the things we need to do in order to solve the problems.

2. Accidents. The Project Team will review crash data that will provide information on the location of crashes. Crash statistics will show what kind of crashes occur; side swipes, rear enders, etc. This information will help to understand what and where the problems are. It is quantifiable information. This information will go into the Purpose and Needs Summary.
One role the CAC will have is to develop goals and objectives that fit into the Purpose and Need Summary process. The goals and objectives bring into focus things the community wants to see happen or not. For instance, a goal may be to improve air quality or to foster economic development.

The community often has particular interests they want us to take a look at in the process of developing alternatives. Your goals may also reflect environmental and or transportation values.

Information developed by the CAC will be given to the Solutions Team. The Solutions Team is comprised of technical experts who are going to be providing information. This team is comprised of two representatives from Phoenix, Jim Wear, Public Works Director and Denis Murray, Planning Director. Dale Petrasek, Engineer, is representing Jackson County. From ODOT the team includes:
  1. Greg Holthoff, Environmental Project Manager, 2. Debbie Timms, Project Manager,
  2. James Burford, Roadway, 4. Vince Carrow, Air Team Leader, 5. Robert Goodrich, Noise Team Leader, 6. Susan Landis, Right of Way, 7. Ray Lapke, Traffic, 8. Brian Sheadel, Sr. Designer, and 9. Irene Toews, TPAU.

Questions and comments:

David Lewin expressed his concern over what is to be done first in regard to development at the interchange. The city is interested in starting to develop the area. On the other hand ODOT is encouraging them to manage the amount of traffic. ODOT wants information from the city and the city wants information from ODOT.

Nancy Reynolds - This is very indicative of the whole environmental process. The traffic experts consider a number of things during their traffic analysis. Normally they look at projected build out. We will have the traffic people attend meetings to talk about these issues.

Information for the public. We will always have a time scheduled for public comment during the CAC meetings. If you would like to be put on the Fern Valley mail list your name should be put on the sign in sheet. You will receive information on upcoming meetings. There will be an Open House on March 30th, 5 to 7:30 p.m. at the Phoenix City Hall. A Web site is in the process of being set up. Locally you can call John Morrison, RVCOG or Gary Leaming, ODOT.
  1. Future meeting schedule

    The group decided that the first Wednesday of the month was a good meeting date. The next CAC meeting will be held on Wednesday, April 7th from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. at the Phoenix Public Works Building.
  2. Public Comment
    Colleen Hansen who resides at 317 Phoenix Hills Drive invited participants of the process to come to her house. After 11 p.m. they will be able to hear the trucks honking and using their jake brakes. She would like the CAC to consider requesting that ODOT fix the damage done on the east side before starting work on the west side.

    An interested citizen asked if a signal was going to be installed the intersection of North Phoenix and Fern Valley Road. If it is determined in this process it is needed, then yes.
    We all seem to know what Medford is doing but are not sure as to what Phoenix plans to do.

    The black soot coming from the freeway concerns citizens living in the area.
    Kim and Colleen Hanson were asked how they would like to be kept informed on the project. They feel they have not been listened to in the past and feel that their only option is to go to the press.
  3. Summary/Next Steps
John Morrison asked CAC members to share their assessment of this meeting and the process:
  • Mark Gibson - I see a real tough process, politically as well as economically. I see this as an uncomfortable process in terms as what is going to happen based on the east side property owners and the truck stop.
  • Joan Haukon – I am surprised to hear about the funding issues for the east side being out there in the future. I would like to see the whole project done at one time.
  • George Cota – I think you are doing a good job. We are not going to make everybody happy. Basically you will have to go to a four-lane bridge. There is no way around that. Otherwise it is all going to be a band-aid. A lot of South Medford is depending on this.
  • David Lowry – I think you are making a considerable effort to get input and conduct a rational process. I am pleased that we all have an opportunity to participate. I hope that an effective use is made of our time. I understand that some people are in a world of hurt, however, I think there should be some limit on the length of comments. Overall I am looking forward to participating in the process.
  • Dan Sauro – We are off to a start of problem solving. I think we have good input. We can’t please everybody. We have individual problems. We have talked about the interchange but we haven’t said anything about an overpass at South Stage Road. That would allow people that work in Medford and live in Phoenix to go over the overpass. That would be one of the cheapest ways to solve the problem without having to do as much work on the Fern Valley Interchange.
  • Wendie Nichols – As somebody who is most affected by the area that hasn’t got the band-aid yet, I think that we have a lot of options for improvements. I am really impressed that people are listening to one another.
  • Bill Rombach – We are the low echelon of the process. I hope you will listen to what we have to say this time. I know you have to build something adequate. I think we are on the right track. I think you have done a good job of explaining everything.
  • David Lewin – Today was a good start. This was the easy part. The hard part is yet to come.
  • Bob Korfhage – I am really convinced this type of process is a good thing. I am looking forward to working with the group. I believe in it. As long as we keep open minds and don’t get hung up on value judgments this is a good process and a lot of good will come of it.
  • Pauly Hinesly – I enjoyed the information. Although this interchange is going to make a huge difference in traffic, what is it going to do to the business people? I think this CAC is a great thing.
  • Dack Doggett – I think we have a great committee. There are a lot of unsettled people here. I hope we learn from the past and don’t make the same mistakes.
  • Lee Carau – I am sitting in for a neighbor. I think you are on the right track and I suggest you let the pros do their work.
  • Debbie Timms – Thank you for your input and participation. We want to do what is right. We want to put the money in the right place. We want to fix the problems. We are limited in what we can do.
  • Sheila North – This has been a learning process for me. I appreciate everybody’s involvement. From the technical side of the process we will do our best to keep you informed as to what we are finding.
  • Nancy Reynolds – Having worked on many projects I am glad to hear about the concerns and issues brought forward tonight early in the project because that helps us think about issues that need to be looked at.
  • Greg Holthoff – Tonight’s meeting seemed a little bumpy and awkward but that is the way first meetings are. I think we have a diverse and competent group of people. I am looking forward to developing solutions with you.
  • Gary Leaming – I think you have a great team. I think you understand the depth and breath of the project.
John Morrison thanked all who attended. The meeting was adjourned.