Congestion on Interstate 5 in north Douglas County is set to get worse for most of the summer, but drivers could get some relief in the month of August.
Beginning this morning, the southbound exit at Milepost 162 closed for up to 33 days.
With the ramp closed, southbound motorists heading to Drain, Elkton or the Oregon Coast must exit at Milepost 163 at Curtin and take a 1½-mile detour to Highway 38.
Traffic was slow moving along Interstate 5 northbound in the area on Sunday night. Vehicles were slowed to a crawl for about a mile as they headed toward Exit 160, where two lanes were forced to merge to one.
About 25 homes are on the detour route. The Oregon Department of Transportation advised motorists to watch for children at play.
The ramp closure is part of an $18.5 million project to replace I-5 concrete that is “unraveling” due to poor drainage in the Cottage Grove area, ODOT spokesman Dan Latham said.
The Martin Creek-Anlauf Project includes repairing pavement to a depth of 3 feet. The work has required narrowing I-5 to one lane in each direction. The lane closures led to a massive 20-mile long traffic jam in the northbound lane on Memorial Day.
With the Fourth of July falling on a Friday this year, travelers face another three-day weekend. ODOT is asking motorists to consider routes to and from the coast that won’t lead to the construction zone.
Work on the southbound lanes is scheduled to wrap up by Aug. 1. All I-5 lanes and ramps should be open during the day in August, Latham said.
“That’s our goal, but I can’t promise we’ll have everything done,” he said. “In construction, Murphy’s Law rules.”
Traffic will again be reduced to one lane in each direction as work on the northbound lanes begins Sept 2, the day after Labor Day.
“It’ll be the reverse of what we’re seeing now, with some three-week ramp closures,” Latham said.
Work on the northbound lanes should finish by Thanksgiving. However, some additional, warm-weather work, like painting stripes, might have to wait to be completed in the spring. Giving drivers a break during the busy month of August is not a response to the Memorial Day traffic jam, Latham said. “That has always been part of the project plan.”
ODOT is advising drivers to visit tripcheck.com, which features images from I-5, including along the construction zone. Drivers expecting delays should pack maps and food, and ensure their vehicles have enough gas.
• You can reach reporter Garrett Andrews at 541-957-4218 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.