ODOT working on I-5 viaduct in Medford this summer

Medford, Ore. — The Medford viaduct that stretches along I-5 is getting a facelift this summer.

The project will be small, but the viaduct could be seeing another big project sometime in the future.

According to ODOT, 50,000 vehicles pass over the I-5 Medford viaduct daily, and that increases throughout the summer.

ODOT plans to preserve the bridge deck on the viaduct in the coming months, but there has also been some talk about seismic stability work far down the road.

“This is merely what we call a preservation project. We want to preserve that bridge deck and then also provide for a better ride,” ODOT spokesperson Gary Leaming said.

Built in 1962, the Medford viaduct is a half-mile stretch of Interstate 5 that runs through downtown Medford.

Gary Leaming with Oregon Department of Transportation says contractors will be working on the viaduct this summer to make sure the bridge deck is preserved for the short-term future.

“Our contractor is going to work in that closed lane, looking for any delamination or easy repairs to fix in those travel lanes, and then at the very end they’ll coat the deck with an epoxy that hardens very quickly,”

The six-week project is a minor one, but it will require shutting down one lane and it will result in reduced speeds.

But another topic on the minds of Southern Oregonians Is the seismic stability of the viaduct.

Several studies show it wasn’t built to withstand a big Cascadia earthquake, which scientists say we’re overdue for.

“Kind of what it looks like at this point is taking some of the spread footings that support the viaduct reinforce those, and make them a little wider and deeper,” Leaming said.

ODOT is also considering the idea of widening the interstate most likely on the east side.

However, that project — which will most likely cost tens of millions of dollars — is only the initial planning stages.

“We have no funding for that, we have no construction year for that. It’s just we’re in the very early stages of what that would look like,” Leaming said.

For now, ODOT is focusing on the work this summer and keeping the viaduct safe.

“Because that margin of safety is so thin on this bridge — there’s no shoulder, there’s no place to put traffic — we’ll have a reduced speed limit of 45 and then we’ll have a suggested construction speed limit of 35 across the bridge,” Leaming said.

ODOT will also alert drivers of the construction work with temporary rumble strips, and Medford Police speed vans will help with enforcement.

“We don’t want anyone hurt on this project. Not any motorists, not any passengers, and not our contractors or inspectors,” Leaming said.

ODOT plans to set the exact date for the summer viaduct construction next week.

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