A1 A1
Study projects I-5 bottlenecks between Roseburg and Winston

If you think traffic on Interstate 5 between say, Roseburg and Winston, is bad now, just imagine how much the situation could worsen in 20 years if nothing is done to address the issue.

That was the message Matt Hughart, a planner with Kittleson & Associates in Portland, presented to the Roseburg City Council on Monday. Kittleson & Associates was hired by the Oregon Department of Transportation to study traffic patterns on I-5, specifically the segment of Interstate 5 between Exit 119 and Exit 129. Douglas County Commissioner Tom Kress also sat in on the meeting, held via Zoom.

The study examined the current situation and projected out traffic patterns to the year 2040, to determine points of concern and possible ways to address them.

“There’s a clear wave, or bubble, in demand on I-5,” Hughart said, while warning that there could be bottlenecks at some of the local on-ramps and off-ramps if no action is taken. He also said traffic to and from some of the outlying cities around Roseburg — particularly Winston and Green — could become a major problem if steps aren’t taken in the near future to address traffic issues.

“There’s demand on I-5 for the people that live in Roseburg, but there’s also demand on I-5 for people that live in the Winston-Green area,” Hughart said. “Southbound weekday P.M. peak hours, it’s essentially Roseburg exhaling people who work and shop in Roseburg back to the Winston-Green area.”

The study identified the following “operational challenges” presented by the stretch of I-5 that was studied:

The Winston-Green commute is a major influencer of traffic: The study found that Roseburg is a center of employment and retail in the study area, especially for those people who live in Winston and Green. About 25% of travel on I-5 represents commuter/shopping trips between Winston and Green to Roseburg. “These commuter patterns are expected to intensify as Winton and Green continue to grow,” the study found.

Topographical constraints affect traffic: Natural features of the area, including Mount Nebo, the Umpqua River and steeply sloped hillsides have the ability to build roads in town, which results in more usage of I-5 as a commuter route — especially between Exits 125 and 124 — which in turn, contributes to congestion and slowdowns on I-5.

Southbound congestion: Compared to the northbound direction, I-5 in the southbound direction only has two travel lanes throughout the entire study segment. As such, I-5 southbound is generally more crowded, especially during the weekday PM peak period. Those potential bottlenecks are expected to increase over time, especially in the peak summer travel periods.

Lack of adequate shoulders: Due to the topographical constraints of the area, the majority of the corridor that was studied has less than standard shoulder width, especially at certain bridges/overpasses and between Exits 125 and 119. The lack of room on the shoulder for vehicles to pull over in the event of an incident or crash can exacerbate congestion along the I-5 corridor. Additionally, the lack of shoulders also limits the ability to conduct speed enforcement along in the area.

Hughart did offer potential solutions to some of these concerns, but acknowledged that most are many years — and millions of dollars — away from becoming reality. These included widening I-5 southbound to include an auxiliary lane between the Exit 125 on-ramp and 124 off-ramps; installing interstate traffic signals, also known as ramp meters, at the soutbound on-ramp at Exit 125 and the northbound and southbound on-ramps at Exit 124; and widening or re-striping I-5 to add shoulders where feasible.

The study also included more than a half-dozen recommendations that are more local, including offering more bus routes and improving the regional bicycle and pedestrian systems to lessen traffic.

"Statistically, it did not seem probable": Roseburg man found in Toketee wilderness after 17 days

A Roseburg man missing for 17 days in the Twin Lakes area near Toketee was found safe Sunday.

Harry Burleigh, 69, had gone to the area for an overnight camping and fishing trip in the Twin Lakes area, but one wrong turn led to a nearly three-week-long search and rescue mission.

Sunday, a group of searchers from Jackson County Search and Rescue were returning to their base at the Twin Lakes trailhead when they called out to Burleigh and he responded.

“He was very thankful to have been found,” Douglas County Sheriff’s Office spokesperson Brad O’Dell said Tuesday morning. “One of the searchers said, ‘If anybody wants a hug, Mr. Burleigh is handing them out for free.’”

Details are still emerging about Burleigh’s time in the woods as he is recuperating at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend. A spokesperson for the hospital confirmed that Burleigh was receiving care as of Tuesday morning, but declined to provide an update on his condition.

“He had indicated he had started to hike in, but lost the trail somewhere along the way and never made it to the lakes at all,” O’Dell said, relaying information he had received from those who had had contact with Burleigh. “Before he knew it, it was nightfall.”

On May 16, searchers located a makeshift shelter and a fishing tackle box they identified as belonging to Burleigh. They left Burleigh some supplies, a lighter, asked Burleigh to start a fire, and left a note that said “we will be back tomorrow to get you.”

Finding out what happened was not the top priority for the sheriff’s office when they found Burleigh, O’Dell said. Instead, the focus was to get him safely out of the woods and to the hospital.

“There are a lot of details we’re anxious to find out as well,” O’Dell said. “This was a wonderful outcome and what we were hoping for. Statistically, it did not seem probable.”

O’Dell said the phone call from Douglas County Search and Rescue Deputy Dave Ward to Burleigh’s wife, Stacy, was very joyous.

“Everybody at that point was starting to grow very concerned,” O’Dell said. “Nobody had lost hope but it was starting to become a very big concern. When she got that phone call, it was just a huge relief.”

Search and rescue teams from nine Oregon counties, three California counties and various other agencies — including the United States Forest Service and Wolf Creek Job Corps Hotshots — assisted in the search for Burleigh.

Sen. Jeff Merkley talks about forest management, infrastructure and more during virtual Douglas County town hall

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, believes U.S. Forest Service and Bureau of Land Management forestlands should be treated as infrastructure.

He discussed that possibility at a Zoom town hall on Monday. He also addressed questions and heard ideas from county residents on topics ranging from green energy to housing to dementia care.

Merkley started the town hall by giving a shout-out to the Roseburg Friendly Kitchen Meals on Wheels program, to which he sent an American flag that had flown over the U.S. Capitol.

“During this COVID year, the work of the Friendly Kitchen was so much more important because of the stress that families were under,” he said.

He said despite all the challenges, including volunteer shortages during the pandemic, the Friendly Kitchen has continued helping out nearly 200 people.

Merkley said he wants to help pass President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better Plan that would create jobs through a broadly defined infrastructure package that would include rural broadband and renewable energy infrastructure along with roads and bridges.

In an interview with The News-Review prior to the town hall, he said including forests in the definition of infrastructure could mean obtaining more funds for thinning, mowing and prescribed burns.

During the town hall, Merkley also spoke about the changing climate, noting that the weather patterns for the past 30 years, compared to those for the 30 years before that show a significant change to hotter, drier seasons.

“It impacts all the pillars of a rural economy in terms of our forests and our farming and our fishing,” he said.

M.A. Hansen voiced concern about the environmental impacts of mining for the lithium that’s in electric car batteries.

Merkley acknowledged the concern but said the greater worry is climate change and his hope is that research and development will find better alternatives for electric car batteries.

“We can’t wait until we have the perfect battery system to stop burning fossil fuels,” he said.

In addition to reduced snowpack and increased forest fires, climate change is leading to increased ocean acidification.

“I never thought we could burn so much fossil fuels as to change the chemistry in the ocean, but we have, even to the point that about 10 years ago it became necessary to start buffering the ocean water to make it less acidic in order for baby oysters to survive,” he said.

Betsy Cunningham of Housing First Umpqua asked Merkley what he could do about the housing shortage so there are places for homeless people to live.

Merkley said the Build Back Better Plan also has massive investment in housing as part of the national infrastructure plan.

Merkley said he wants to see a full range of housing supports. Those would include housing vouchers in which the recipient pays just 30% of their income toward the rent, low income tax credits, and subsidies for first-time home buyers.

Pam Speta spoke about the Forget Me Not Care Home she is building that she hopes will change the face of dementia and Parkinson’s care by creating a home where spouses could live with their loved ones while having 24/7 support.

“Keep us posted on your efforts because often when there is a new experimentation and a new model then it becomes very valuable in terms of influencing policy or influencing a movement on how to provide care better,” Merkley said.

In an interview before the town hall, Merkley also spoke about efforts to pass legislation protecting voters.

Merkley is the lead sponsor of the proposed For the People Act that he said would take on problems like gerrymandering, voter suppression and dark money funding attack ads.

“Right now we have hundreds of millions of dollars in each campaign cycle where nobody knows where it came from and some of it came from overseas and we’ve got to shine a light on it so that this is not a corrupting force in the elections,” he said.

Merkley said he sought and received an appointment to the Senate Rules Committee because it has jurisdiction over election bills.

However, he said while the bill’s provisions are popular with voters, Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell is opposed to it.

“It’s unfortunate because Republicans across the country support these reforms. But Republican senators are absolutely united in opposition,” he said.

Friendly Kitchen Director Kayla Ray told The News-Review after the town hall that the flag Merkley sent was dropped off by UPS at about noon Monday.

“It’s a huge honor for the Friendly Kitchen,” she said.

Ray, who is new to her position, said it was a big surprise to get the call on Friday that the organization would be receiving the flag, and it was a real honor for all the volunteers.

“I’m a volunteer firefighter so I know what a big deal it is to be a volunteer and to get just that thank you, and I’m really excited for them all,” she said.

Ray also said the group is in need of more volunteer drivers and kitchen volunteers. For more information, call 541-673-5929.