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.