North Medford Interchange EA Study
|Hwy 62 Corridor Solutions, NMI (Pacific Highway - Poplar Drive, Medford) Environmental Assessment
Federal Highway Administration
Oregon Department of Transportation
Rogue Valley Council of Governments
For several years the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT), the Rogue Valley Metropolitan Planning Organization (RVMPO) Policy Committee and the City of Medford have recognized the need to find a solution to the increasing traffic congestion and safety issues along Highway 62 (a.k.a. Crater Lake Highway). In 1997, ODOT formed a Solutions Team to evaluate possible transportation solutions for the Highway 62 Corridor.
As originally conceived, the Highway 62 Corridor Solutions project was intended to evaluate a wide range of transportation options/solutions. The original study area began at the Highway 62/ Interstate 5 (I-5) interchange in Medford and continued northeast to White City. Since early 1999, the Solutions Team has been developing an Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) which evaluated several transportation alternatives. These alternatives included a No-Build Alternative and two Build Alternatives.
In the fall of 2000, several actions occurred that changed the nature and scope of the Highway 62 Corridor Solutions project. Most importantly, the Rogue Valley Council of Government (RVCOG), in its periodic update of the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP), removed a portion of the Highway 62 project from its "financially constrained" projects list. This action was taken because there was dedicated construction funding only for improvements to the Highway 62/I-5 interchange. This reduction in the nature and size of the project also reduced the potential environmental impacts. The end result of this reduction of scope and potential impacts allowed the level of environmental analysis for the project to be changed from a EIS to an Environmental Assessment (EA). The remainder of the original Highway 62 Corridor Solutions project area will be addressed in a refinement plan.
The Highway 62/I-5 interchange area that is the subject of this EA is located in Medford, Oregon. The interchange area is a critical modal connection for the Highway 62 corridor, which extends from Medford to White City in Jackson County, Oregon. The Oregon Transportation Commission (OTC) considers this section of highway to be vital for the economic well being of the Rogue Valley and, therefore, has designated the segment between I-5 and Highway 140 a Statewide National Highway System (NHS) route in the 1999 Oregon Highway Plan (OHP). For the purpose of this EA, the interchange area is referred to as the North Medford Interchange (NMI).
At present, there are peak periods during the day when traffic movement on and around the North Medford Interchange is very congested. ODOT, in conjunction with FHWA and RVCOG, is proposing to improve the movement of traffic in the area around NMI by implementing a number of major roadway improvements. Overall guidance and decision making for the project is being provided by the Highway 62 Solutions Team, which consists of individuals involved in the project from both the public and private sectors. In addition, a Citizens Advisory Committee composed of residents, representatives of local industry and business, and others potentially impacted by the proposed project have provided input to the Solutions Team.
This EA considers two alternatives: No Build and Build. The No-Build Alternative would result in no improvements or modifications to the existing highway other than those that are already committed and funded in the RTP. This alternative would result in no bicycle or pedestrian improvements.
The central component of the Build Alternative is a new design for North Medford Interchange that would address traffic congestion and safety issues in the project area. The new design includes three main elements: the Highway 62/I-5 interchange, the Highway 62 and Biddle Road interchange, and other improvements necessary to support the safe, effective and efficient operation of these facilities. As part of the Build Alternative, a number of improvements to bike and pedestrian lanes have also been proposed. Because the Build Alternative would increase the amount of impervious surface in the project area, a water treatment facility is proposed to treat runoff. The Build Alternative, then, includes the new design for North Medford Interchange, improvements to bike and pedestrian lanes, and the water treatment facility.
POTENTIAL IMPACTS AND MITIGATIONS
All of the potential impacts identified in the EA can be mitigated to a level of minimal or no significance. The potential impacts and suggested mitigation measures are described below.
Traffic and Transportation
Traffic problems identified under the No-Build Alternative would continue to worsen without improvements to the I-5, Highway 62 and Biddle Road interchange area. By the Year 2024, five of the six intersections within the North Medford Interchange analysis area would exceed ODOT mobility standards under the No-Build Alternative, as compared to only two under the proposed Build Alternative with mitigations in place. The two intersections exceeding ODOT mobility standards under the Build Alternative would be no worse than under the No-Build Alternative. Overcapacity conditions (i.e., traffic volume in excess of a facility's capacity) under the No-Build Alternative would lead to increased accident potential and reduced travel times throughout the interchange area. In particular, the overcapacity conditions at the existing northbound I-5 off-ramp connection to Biddle Road cause vehicle queues to extend back the I-5 mainline resulting in excessive speed differentials. In addition, accident rates to the west of the Poplar Drive intersection would continue to worsen, given the close proximity of the existing Fred Meyer signal and accesses along Highway 62.
The No-Build Alternative has poor connectivity between I-5 and Highway 62 (via Biddle Road) and deficient access management along Biddle Road. These issues combine to create additional delays for truck traffic traveling between I-5 and Highway 62. Finally, the No-Build Alternative offers limited pedestrian and bicycle connections within the interchange area.
The proposed Build Alternative would significantly improve connectivity in the North Medford Interchange area. The proposed I-5 on and off-ramp relocation would connect motorists directly between I-5 and Highway 62 instead of requiring intermediate access to Biddle Road. A folded-diamond interchange would be provided to connect Highway 62 and Biddle Road. The reduction of traffic volume resulting from the northbound I-5 ramp relocation and improved access control would result in improved mobility along Biddle Road.
There are several mitigation measures recommended for the Build Alternative design. The design should:
Change the northbound I-5 off ramp geometry to include a left turn lane, a shared right turn lane, and a right turn lane on the off-ramp
Carry only two lanes westbound on Highway 62 from Poplar Drive to the folded-diamond ramp
Add additional turning lanes at the intersection of Poplar Drive and Highway 62
Provide a right in/right out access to Fred Meyer from Highway 62
Provide a connection between Bullock Road and the existing Bear Creek Greenway I-5 underpass
Include a signalized at-grade pedestrian crossing at the northern folded diamond interchange terminal at Biddle Road.
Given these recommended mitigation measures, all new facilities included in the Build Alternative would operate within ODOT mobility standards. All other facilities would operate at or better than under the No-Build Alternative. The improved mobility under the proposed Build Alternative would result in reduced accident potential as compared to the No-Build Alternative. The removal of the Fred Meyer signal and direct business access to Highway 62 west of Poplar Drive and reduction of queues on the northbound I-5 off-ramp would significantly reduce accidents. Truck and transit circulation between I-5 and Highway 62 would be greatly improved under the Build Alternative. The proposed pedestrian and bicycle improvements would make alternative modes of transportation more viable.
The pollutant of most concern for highway improvement projects in Medford is carbon monoxide (CO). Localized CO impacts, or hot-spots, are generally most prevalent close to congested roadways. The effect of the North Medford Interchange improvements on localized CO hot-spot concentrations was analyzed at two intersections for both the Build and No-Build Alternatives: 1) Highway 62 at Poplar/Hilton/Bullock and 2) Biddle Road at the Biddle/Highway 62 connector.
At the Poplar/Hilton/Bullock intersection, CO concentrations would be higher for the Build Alternative than the No-Build Alternative. For Biddle Road at the Biddle/Highway 62 connector, the air quality analysis predicted that CO concentrations would be higher for the No-Build Alternative than for the Build Alternative. Overall, implementation of North Medford Interchange design changes would improve operational characteristics at numerous intersections and reduce pollutant emissions within the Medford airshed.
Providing a right-in/right-out to Fred Meyer directly from Highway 62 would significantly improve the average vehicle delay at the Highway 62 and Poplar/Hilton/Bullock intersection. The improved intersection average vehicle delay would allow for additional allocation of the signal cycle to the northbound (Poplar Drive) approach. The added cycle time would reduce vehicle queues on this approach, which, in turn, would reduce air quality impacts.
FHWA considers a traffic noise impact to occur if predicted noise levels approach or exceed the abatement criteria, or substantially exceed existing levels. The changes in sound levels at the various noise receptors are a result of a combination of increased traffic volumes, changes in travel speeds, and the relocation of roadways closer to or farther from receptors. The Build Alternative would result in outdoor noise levels that are noticeably different from the existing conditions. Four receptors, representing seven properties, would be noise impacted under the Build Alternative. Construction of the Build Alternative may cause localized, short-duration noise impacts.
Several options were considered for traffic noise abatement for the Build Alternative, including truck and speed restrictions, and alignment changes. However, none of these measures would be practical or effective for this project, so no noise mitigation measures are recommended. To mitigate construction noise, six standard construction noise abatement measures, listed in section 220.127.116.11, should be included in the project specifications.
The only direct impacts on land use are due to conversion of lands that are now private commercial and industrial to public road right-of-way. The majority of the impact would occur on lands designated for regional commercial uses. The potential for higher intensity uses at the northern ramp terminal would be off-set by limiting future land uses to those with peak-hour trip generation rates equal to or less than those uses that currently exist on the affected properties. This could be accomplished during the right-of-way acquisition process, or via an ODOT/City of Medford interchange management agreement.
Right-of-Way and Relocation
Implementation of the Build Alternative would displace five businesses: Western Tool & Supply, Denny's Inc., Best Western/Pony Soldier Inn, Chevron Auto Service and International House of Pancakes (IHOP). A total of 27 tax lots would be impacted by the Build Alternative, including those associated with the businesses identified above. These impacts include changes in access and loss of parking. The total area to be acquired for the project is 2.1 hectares (4.6 acres). The estimated right-of-way cost for the Build Alternative is approximately $10 million.
Reasonable access would be provided to each property or damages, if compensable, would be determined during the appraisal process. In some cases a remainder property that is landlocked (no access) could be purchased to make a settlement with the owner. Access may be deleted from an existing location for safety or traffic control reasons. If there is alternate reasonable access to the remainder property there may be no compensable damage. Alternate means to reconnect access to properties would be explored.
Some loss of business parking would occur to many of the properties. There is no provision in the design to replace lost parking. Compensation is paid for land, improvements and damages. Parking taken and damages (if any) would be computed in the appraisal process for individual properties.
Displaced business occupants, whether owners or tenants, are eligible for certain relocation benefits. Displacees are eligible for advisory assistance, moving costs, search expense costs and reestablishment costs. The reestablishment cost is limited to $10,000. Some are eligible for a fixed payment benefit option. The fixed payment is in lieu of all other relocation payments and has a limit of $20,000.
It is anticipated that the displaced businesses would have a reasonable opportunity to relocate in the Medford area.
Social and Economic Effects and Environmental Justice Considerations
No private residences, residential neighborhoods or community facilities would be directly impacted by the Build Alternative.
Potential economic effects under the build alternative include employment impacts due to business displacements and construction activity, changes in property tax revenues, off-street parking impacts, and changes in access to specific businesses.
The Build Alternative would displace five businesses; these displacements would result in the loss of up to 119 full-time and nine part-time jobs. Approximately 240 to 264 short-term construction jobs would be created over the two-year construction phase.
Approximately $66,868 in annual property tax revenues would be lost when privately owned properties are removed from the tax rolls through their acquisition for publicly owned right-of-way.
The loss of off-street parking for some project vicinity businesses is expected as a result of right-of-way acquisitions for changes in roadway alignments and widening of roadways. The affected businesses would be Food 4 Less, the Reston Motel and Witham Truck Stop.
Under the Build Alternative, there would not be any direct property access to Highway 62 between the southbound I-5 ramp terminal at Highway 62 and the Poplar Drive intersection with Highway 62. The project would incorporate access management along Biddle Road within the folded-diamond interchange area, and along Poplar Drive in the vicinity of Poplar Square and Fred Meyer. There would also be access control along the realigned Bullock Road in the proximity of the intersection with Highway 62. Approximately 20 businesses would be affected to some degree by changes in access.
Minority populations and persons living in poverty would not be disproportionately impacted by the Build Alternative.
ODOT would provide compensation for eligible owners of dislocated businesses for loss of property at fair market value and relocation costs.
For removal of privately owned off-street parking, ODOT would continue to consider design refinements to reduce removal of parking. There is no provision in the design of the Build Alternative to replace lost parking. Parking that is taken, and corresponding damages (if any), would be evaluated in the appraisal process for individual properties.
There are two overall approaches for mitigating access impacts. One is to provide alternate access routes to the affected businesses (for instance, backage roads or shared driveways). The other is to undertake design changes that avoid the access impacts. ODOT has been in ongoing discussions with business owners about access impacts and how to resolve or mitigate them. These discussions are continuing. Any build design for the North Medford Interchange area would have access, parking and displacement impacts on existing businesses. The issue comes down to which businesses are affected. ODOT is exploring every potential for minimizing these impacts.
During the construction phase, ODOT would provide alternative routing and appropriate signage for both vehicle and pedestrian traffic. ODOT would also evaluate means to phase and time construction activities at periods least disruptive to local businesses and neighborhoods.
Implementation of the Build Alternative would not result in significant geotechnical complications. Standard geotechnical practices, such as moisture control and utilization of geotextile fabrics between the base course and subgrade would stabilize new pavements, curbs and sidewalks. However, the potential exists for moisture sensitive expansive soils within the study area. Such soils would require additional moisture control.
Prior to pavement design, the onsite soils should be tested for their expansive/consolidation indices. It is anticipated that geotechnical design for structural elements such as piers, abutments and shallow mats would be similar to the previous recommendations for the existing interchange.
Based on site reconnaissance activities and a review of existing environmental databases, four sites were identified as potential environmental concerns within the North Medford Interchange project area. The Gas-4-Less, Witham Truck Stop, and Tosco (closed service station) sites were rated as having a high potential to encounter subsurface contamination under the Build Alternative. The Arco/Texaco site was rated as having a moderate potential to encounter subsurface contamination under the Build Alternative
A work plan would be designed for each site and would include actions to be implemented if construction activities encounter contaminated soil and/or groundwater. DEQ should be notified of the potential impact of construction under the Build Alternative. It could then be requested that DEQ assist ODOT in requiring additional assessment or remediation by the responsible parties. Additionally, the final disposition of any contaminated soil and/or groundwater remaining beneath the newly constructed interchange should be addressed with DEQ. For each of the four known sites in the project area, a work plan would be written to include actions to be implemented if construction activities encounter contaminated soil and/or groundwater.
Approximately 3.2 hectares (7.8 acres) of commercial and residential landscaping and vacant lots would be disturbed or lost during construction of the Build Alternative. Roughly, 0.8 hectares (1.9 acres) of grassland vegetation would be lost. No riparian/aquatic vegetation would be removed. The largest natural wildlife habitat impacted would be the grassland vegetation community. Small mammals that favor this habitat would be affected the most.
Construction of the Build Alternative would result in two new crossings of the large drainage ditch (affecting approximately 65 meters [215 feet] of its length) on the north side of the Haul Road to the west of Bullock Road. This drainage ditch is tributary to Bear Creek. Short-term increases in turbidity and sedimentation would result. An additional impact to fisheries resources would be changes in water quality and quantity as a result of creating new impervious surfaces.
The ground disturbance activities associated with construction have the potential to further the spread of invasive species. Grading activities can spread invasive seed sources within the soil and incoming construction equipment could carry new invasive seed sources from other locations. Bare soil areas in newly graded areas (where seed sources exist) facilitate the establishment of new populations of invasive species. Given the already extensive coverage of invasive species in the study area, the potential for increasing the spread and coverage of invasive species is expected to be minimal.
Mitigation measures designed to minimize impacts to vegetation communities are generally associated with Best Management Practices (BMPs) for construction, landscaping and restoration. An extensive list of BMPs is recommended for the Build Alternative and identified in Section 3.9.4, Mitigation Measures, Biological Resources (see Table 3.9-3). Most of these mitigation measures are also applicable to wildlife impacts.
ODOT has established a series of conservation measures and standard specifications designed to protect fisheries habitat and water quality. Anticipated conservation measures that would be employed for this project would follow practices outlined in ODOT's Standard Specifications for Highway Construction (ODOT 1996) and the Supplemental Standard Specifications for Highway Construction (ODOT 1998). These measures are identified in the Biological Resources section under Mitigation Measures.
Construction of the Build Alternative would result in a net increase of 0.66 hectares (1.65 acres) of impervious surfaces in the study area, which has the potential to impact the existing hydrology of Bear Creek. Without proper stormwater control, the additional road surfaces could increase peak flood flows in Bear Creek. Currently, untreated stormwater from the project area enters Bear Creek via several open ditches.
ODOT has proposed construction of a water quality treatment facility to remove roadway pollutants from stormwater runoff and reduce the hydrologic impacts by providing temporary detention of runoff. The detention pond would be located directly east of Biddle Road, between the existing Hilton Road and proposed north folded diamond ramps. The water quality treatment facility would also function as a stormwater detention facility to mitigate the hydrologic impacts of new impervious surfaces. Following the construction of the project, including construction of the extended dry detention pond, runoff to Bear Creek would transport fewer pollutants than are now carried to the stream.
Construction of the Build Alternative would disturb approximately 0.058 hectares (0.15 acres) of wetlands (see Table 3.11-2). No riverine wetlands associated with Bear Creek or Lone Pine Creek would be affected by the Build Alternative. The majority of the affected wetland communities are palustrine emergent and linear wetlands associated with drainage and roadside drainage ditches along the Haul Road and Bullock Road. Overall, the affected wetlands are of low to moderate quality and value since they provide only limited functions relative to stormwater storage, sediment and nutrient retention and groundwater recharge. These wetlands are also considered to be of low quality as wildlife habitat since they have poor plant species diversity and are located in an urban environment.
ODOT would be required to secure the necessary COE and DSL permits to allow the filling of wetlands. They would also work with the appropriate agencies to develop adequate wetland mitigation measures. Wetlands that are temporarily disturbed would be restored. If required by regulating authorities, replacement wetlands would be constructed.
Threatened and Endangered Species
Implementation of the Build Alternative would not directly impact state- or federally-listed threatened or endangered species. There would be no crossings or encroachments of Bear Creek or Lone Pine Creek. No clearing of riparian vegetation would be required and all construction activities would take place within existing disturbed or urban areas. Construction of the Build Alternative would require disturbances to approximately 65 meters (215 feet) of drainage ditches within the study area.
The proposed project would require expansion of an existing crossing and a new crossing of a large drainage ditch on the north side of the Haul Road, affecting 65 meters (215 feet) of its length. The existing drainage ditch is approximately 3 meters (10 feet) wide and discharges directly into Bear Creek near the northwestern portion of the study area. Since coho salmon (listed as federal threatened) are not present in the drainage ditch itself, the potential for adverse consequences to coho salmon are related solely to possible short-term increases in turbidity and sedimentation at the outfall for the ditch into Bear Creek.
A Biological Assessment would be prepared and consultation undertaken with the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) as required under Section 7 of the federal Endangered Species Act.
A water treatment facility would be built to treat runoff from the project area. The design and installation of stormwater control facilities would be required to capture and treat all stormwater originating from project alignment prior to discharge to area streams. ODOT construction standards and specifications for protection of fish species would be followed.
Historic and Cultural Resources
The original Pacific & Eastern Railroad, the Haul Road site, has little to no integrity in terms of the original tracks and/or the original rail alignment. As a result, the project would have no impact to historic or cultural resources.
There would be no adverse visual effects due to the Build Alternative. There would be, however, several potentially beneficial impacts, including improved right-of-way landscaping as part of the Highway 62/I-5 interchange, and a new roadway design. Simplifying several confusing intersections would help relieve the visual clutter of the North Medford Interchange area. Additional recommended mitigation measures include consideration of viewsheds and visual connections during the design of the pedestrian connection between Bullock Road and Bear Creek Greenway.
The Build Alternative includes a folded-diamond interchange that generally parallels Hilton Road. Hilton Road has overhead electrical utilities, plus water lines, storm sewer, and sanitary sewer. It may be necessary to relocate some or all of these utilities.
Utilities relocation is a standard part of all roadway construction projects. ODOT would request any necessary utilities relocation and accommodate the relocated utilities in any design.
The Build Alternative would consist of additional capacity improvements and would have a direct impact on traffic volumes and energy consumed. The change in traffic volumes under the Build Alternative is due to the relocation of the I-5 ramps from Biddle Road to Highway 62 and the elimination of Hilton Road and the signalized access from Highway 62 to Fred Meyer. The operation fuel used under the No-Build Alternative was estimated to be approximately 187 billion BTUs per year. The operation fuel used in the year 2024 Build Alternative was estimated to be approximately 248 billion BTUs per year. Future fuel and electrical energy use would be increased during construction activities, including the operation of construction vehicles and equipment.
The increase in energy consumption under the Build Alternative could be offset somewhat by reducing the number of single-occupant vehicles through increasing the availability of alternative modes of transportation. This could be achieved through the development of Transportation Demand Management (TDM), an increase in transit service and availability, and the planned increase in bicycle and pedestrian facilities.