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Fern Valley Interchange
Meeting Minutes Oct 6th, 04
Meeting Date: Wednesday, October 6, 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: October 8, 2004

CAC Attendees: Harry Page, Joan Haukom, Dan Sauro, David Lowry, David Lewin, Bob Korfhage, Bill Rombach

CAC Absent: George Cota, Wendie Nichols, Dack Doggett, Pauly Hinesly, and Mark Gibson

Project Team Attendees:
Jerry Marmon, ODOT Environmental Project Manager
Debbie Timms, ODOT Project Manager
Brian Sheadel, ODOT Senior Designer
Peter Schuytema, ODOT Engineer
Mike Arneson, ODOT Designer
Gary Leaming, ODOT Public Information
Nancy Reynolds, URS Corp. Project Manager
John Morrison, RVCOG
Pat Foley, RVCOG

Other Attendees: Dick Croly, Terry Helfrich, Blair and Elizabeth Garrett, Lee Carrau, Gary Hall, Bob Nelson, Vern and Jimmie Reed, Eloise and Russ Barry, Dick and Fran Flodstrom, Sam Fung, John Deller, C. Engle and Muriel Johnson
  1. Review of agenda and process
Approval of 08/04/04 CAC Minutes
John Morrison, RVCOG Facilitator

John reviewed the agenda for tonight’s meeting.

A request for approval of the September 1, 2004 CAC Minutes was made. There were no corrections or additions. The minutes were approved as written.

2. Summary of 09/02/04 PDT Meeting
Debbie Timms, ODOT

The PDT reviewed all FVI alternative concept maps. A discussion ensued on the features of each alternative. After reviewing each map, the PDT decided to drop four of the suggested alternatives. These alternatives will be reviewed by the CAC later in the meeting.

Peter Schuytema gave a presentation describing the modeling process. This presentation will be given to the CAC at a later date.

3. Interchange Spacing Standards
Mike Arneson, ODOT

Interchange spacing standards are an important topic for this project because some of the alternatives under review utilize more than one interchange within the area. This presentation is to provide background information on interchange spacing and why there are guiding policies and standards.

 Why have spacing policies? The three main issues are:

An interchange is a complex area. There are a lot of decisions to be made in a short period of time. Often they involve high speeds or high volumes of traffic.

Things to be considered:
  • Driver expectancy - Normally interchanges are located on facilities that are used by people who are not local. I-5 has drivers from all over the western U.S. These drivers, as well as local drivers, expect to encounter a familiar environment that they understand.
  • High speeds / High volumes - There is generally a lot of traffic going at a high rate of speed at an interchange. There are a lot of decisions to be made especially when exiting or entering a freeway. “Perception Reaction Time” is the time it takes a driver to perceive the situation they are in and to react to it accordingly.
  • Vehicle types - One thing to keep in mind is the different types of vehicles using an interchange – i.e., trucks which are slower moving and cannot accelerate or change lanes as fast as an automobile.
  • Speed differential - A 10 mph difference in speed by vehicles traveling in the same direction increases the potential for an accident by 8 times. Speed differential, especially at high speeds, is a major cause of accidents.
  • Future Volumes - Make sure that what is designed and built will work twenty years out from the time of construction.
  • Be appropriately conservative - If you have to make choices be sure that the design has reserve capacity or has room to grow.
  • Calculations / Analysis - There are ways to determine how close or far apart interchanges need to be so that the traffic that operates between them can operate safely and effectively.

  • Most expensive investment - On a per mile basis, interchanges are typically the most expensive investment made in a transportation system.
  • Serve regional needs - Protecting your investment is not just for the local scenario. Interchanges have a regional impact.
  • Build in flexibility - Make sure that what you build now takes into consideration future growth and unforeseen changes.
Mike gave an example of flexibility: If you have two interchanges that are properly spaced and in the future I-5 needs another travel lane in each direction to handle the increasing volumes, you have the room to add these lanes. If interchanges were placed too close together it would be difficult to fit in the additional lane.

Using existing interchanges as examples, Mike pointed out specific issues that the CAC should think about when looking at alternatives.
1. Beltway Interchange in Eugene - There is a distance of 540 ft. between the on and off ramps at this interchange. A vehicle going 60 mph travels 88 ft. per second. It only takes 6.1 seconds to travel the 540 ft.
2. North Medford Interchange - There are two interchanges at this location, I-5/Hwy 62 and Biddle Road/Hwy 62. Merging is a problem at these interchanges.
3. Fern Valley Interchange – An alternative that is being reviewed was shown as an example of what to consider when evaluating a design. On this alternative, entrance and exit ramps overlap between the proposed new interchange and the existing interchange.

According to Oregon’s Highway Plan, the policy document for ODOT, interstate spacing between interchanges in an urban area is supposed to be three miles apart. The three miles is measured from the crossroad to the crossroad. A major deviation study is required to change these planning spacing standards.
  • Process for Deviation from OHP 3 Mile Standard
1. FHWA approval for new interchange
  • The FHWA has eight points that have to be met before the new interchange can be approved on the interstate system. One FHWA point states: In order to have a new interchange, it has to be shown that everything has been done to make the existing interchange and
    off-system roadways (non-freeway) work properly.

    The FHWA did not set the three-mile standard. This is an ODOT standard. The three-mile standard is set so that we can be conservative and have high standards to make sure, that as new interchanges go in, we do not duplicate the problems that were created by past decisions made when the interstate system was built.
  • The absolute minimum distance specified in the OHP is to have one mile available for weaving.
  • You have to show that a new interchange works with calculations.
The subject of the close spacing of the interchanges in Portland was discussed. A question to ponder, if today’s spacing standards were in place when the Portland interchanges were built, would the off system roadways have been designed and developed to handle the traffic off the freeway so that the freeway would not be used as a local street? This scenario is one of the eight points the FHWA studies when assessing a new interchange.

4. Alternatives Analysis Progress Report
Jerry Marmon, ODOT
Brian Sheadel, ODOT

Jerry explained that the PDT has made the first cut of alternatives. The first cut looked at fatal flaws in the alternatives from a policy standpoint. Four alternatives have been dropped.

These alternatives, with the justification of why they were dropped, are:

1. Figure 18 – Standard Diamond Interchange located south of the present FVI.

NEPA Section 4F requires that impacts to parkland be minimized. Any feasible or prudent alternative not impacting parkland has to be taken over an alternative that impacts parkland. It is one of the stronger environmental laws that have to be considered. This alternative impacts the Bear Creek Greenway and a City park. The alternative covers the south end of Bear Lake Estates with an on ramp and the eastside off-interstate connection bisects the Phoenix Hills residential area.
CAC Comments

David Lewin: This alternative, with the main access to Phoenix at the south end of the City, would require a major change to the Phoenix Downtown Plan.

Joan Haukom would not like to see a major arterial going through Phoenix Hills nor would she like to see the parkland south of Bear Lake impacted.

The CAC concurs unanimously with the PDT to eliminate Figure 18.

2. Figure 13-22 - Standard Diamond Interchange located north of the present FVI

This alternative has substantial residential and commercial impacts. 4F issues impact the Bear Creek Greenway. Geometry issues involving the need to elevate the southern on and off ramps over the Fern Valley access to the east are costly. In order to access the east side of the interchange a vehicle would have to go to Highway 99 and then circle back to get to Fern Valley Road.

CAC Comments

Dan Sauro asked if any interchange that is being presented would accommodate any future growth that is planned by the City.

The Goals and Objectives address that factor and will be used as a filter. In this alternative there are existing businesses being impacted and potential future businesses. The interchange will be built to handle traffic.

The CAC concurs unanimously with the PDT to eliminate Figure 13-22.

3. Figure 2 – Split Diamond Interchange

Same 4F issues as indicated in Figure 18, impacts to Bear Creek Greenway and City Park. This alternative has the same residential impacts as Figure 18. There would be substantial costs to build sound walls to protect Bear Lake Estates. There four crossings over Bear Creek.

CAC Comments

Joan Haukom asked if we should look at all of the alternatives before we eliminate these alternatives.

Nancy replied that it is possible to look at an alternative in the future that has been eliminated. The team may find that they can tweak, or use portions of, an alternative to make it work.

The CAC concurs unanimously with the PDT to eliminate Figure 2.

4. CAC Table 4 - 3 interchanges – South Stage/Fern Valley/new south interchange

There are spacing issues between the existing Fern Valley Interchange and the proposed new southern interchange. The spacing between Fern Valley and the overpass at South Stage Road is close. It was decided to leave the South Stage option for traffic modeling purposes.

CAC Comments

David Lewin asked, “In this alternative does the South Stage Interchange replace the Fern Valley Interchange or is it in addition to?”

Jerry Marmon said that it is a study of two interchanges or having South Stage as an over-crossing.

The CAC concurs unanimously with the PDT to eliminate the southern portion of CAC Table 4 Alternative (Fern Valley Interchange and a new interchange to the south of Fern Valley) and to keep the South Stage Option for further study.

5. CAC Alternatives Map Review
Brian Sheadel, ODOT

At the last CAC meeting all alternatives received a preliminary review. Brian Sheadel tonight walked through the alternatives originating with the CAC to provide a more indepth review.

Brian explained the difference between an alternative and an option. Alternatives, represented by red lines on the maps being reviewed, indicate the type of interchange with certain connections. Each alternate has options, represented by blue lines. Options are not fixed and can be changed to enhance a particular alternative. An example; change an option to ensure access to businesses.

1. Brian showed the CAC a new alternative suggested by David Lowry. The alternative has a perpendicular crossing of I-5 a little south of the existing Fern Valley Interchange. A diamond configuration is shown while the intent of the alternative was to use a Single Point Urban Diamond interchange, which requires less room. Brian will make this change. The options for this alternative are to be determined. The Fern Valley Road would be kept in its present configuration as much as possible. David feels that this alternative will not impact existing businesses/residences, allows for future development and does not have the high cost for right-of-way acquisitions that many of the other alternatives have. David would rather see money spent on a high capacity interchange than on right-of-way acquisitions.

CAC Table 3 Single Point Urban Diamond Interchange – The CAC would like this alternative to be studied further and forwarded to the PDT.

2. CAC Table 1 – Single Point Urban Diamond Interchange
This interchange is located just north of the existing Fern Valley interchange with a new alignment of North Phoenix Road. North Phoenix Road would connect to Fern Valley Road at Furry Lane. Options realign access to Bear Lake Estates and the Shops at Exit 24.

CAC Comments

David Lowry: This alternative favors access for south Medford residents rather than allowing access by Phoenix to the area that the City wants to develop commercially.

The CAC did not submit a recommendation

3. CAC Table 2 – Partial Cloverleaf Interchange using the existing Fern Valley Interchange.

This interchange configuration would take up a lot of ground space. It impacts or destroys current businesses. Access to businesses and residential areas are a problem

The CAC would like to forward a recommendation to the PDT stating:
The CAC recommends, at this time, no further consideration be given to this alternative. Reasons: 1. Impacts or destroys major businesses/residences at the interchange, and 2. Would involve a lot of right-of-way acquisitions.

4. CAC Table 2 – Partial Cloverleaf Interchange north of the existing Fern Valley Interchange

This configuration would require additional costs for rebuilding Fern Valley overpass. The first signalized intersection on the west side would be at Hwy 99. Trucks would have to enter Phoenix to get to the Fern Valley overpass, which leads to the Petro Truck Stop. This alternative would have the same impacts to businesses as CAC Table 2 (Partial Cloverleaf at existing FVI) alternative and would make it hard to develop the commercial lands on the east side of the freeway.

The CAC notes that this alternative has a lot of deficiencies. These deficiencies are to be forwarded to the PDT for their review while evaluating this alternative.

5. CAC Table 3 - Single Point Urban Diamond Interchange located just north of the existing Fern Valley interchange.

The northbound off-ramp would connect with the realigned North Phoenix Road at Fern Valley and Breckinridge Road. There is an access road to the Petro Truck Stop midway. Fern Valley Road would remain as an east-west connector.

The CAC unanimously recommends that this alternative remain for consideration.

6. CAC Table 4 - Diamond Interchange south of the existing FVI with connection to 4th Street

Concerns raised with this alternative; 1. 4-F (environmental), 2. Destroys the truck stop.

The CAC did not submit a recommendation

Debbie Timms explained that even if an alternative is dropped from further review at this time, there is nothing to prevent the group from going back to a dropped alternative at a future date.

6. Review of Evaluation/Quantitative Criteria
Jerry Marmon, ODOT
Nancy Reynolds, URS
John Morrison, RVCOG

John reminded the group that they received by mail the Evaluation Criteria that was agreed upon by the CAC at the last meeting.

Quantitative Criteria Handout

Nancy explained that the examples of quantitative criteria supplement the evaluation criteria. The quantitative criteria shown on the first four pages are specifically related to the CAC’s goals. The next two pages list quantitative measures that are required to be looked at and be made a part of the environmental document.

CAC members can suggest additional quantitative criteria. Submit suggestions to RVCOG.

Nancy went on to explain that an alternative with the least amount of negative impacts does not mean that it would be selected. An alternative can have both positive and negative impacts. All have to be considered.

7. Public Comment

Vern Reed asked, “In this interchange project you are worried about the environment, but what about the people?” He feels that the trucks need to stop going through (Furry Road) residential neighborhoods. The trucks are a health hazard.
  • As the alternatives are reviewed, impacts to neighborhoods are a consideration. Considerable time will be spent analyzing the impacts to neighborhood and will be a part of the draft environmental document. When this draft document is complete the public can make comments especially if they feel a concern has not be adequately addressed. These comments will be reviewed.
Bob Nelson likes the option put forth by David Lowry.

8. Next Steps
Debbie Timms, ODOT

The CAC will meet in November to review the alternatives developed by the Project Development Team. The next meeting will be on November 3, 2004.