Connection from North Mountain to southbound I-5 should be done by fire season
By Bert Etling, Ashland.news
Work is set to begin Tuesday, Jan. 18, on creating an emergency evacuation on-ramp to allow motorists evacuating Ashland to get from North Mountain Avenue onto the southbound lanes of Interstate 5.
The $100,000 project is wedged between the Mountain Meadows residential area and the freeway at the northern city limit of Ashland near milepost 17 on I-5, between the southerly Highway 66 interchange at milepost 14 and South Valley View Road at milepost 19.
There are currently only a handful of exit routes from town, which would likely become quickly congested should many vehicles attempt to leave simultaneously in the event of a fire or other emergency.
The new on-ramp would offer another kind of pressure relief valve close to a heavily populated section of town. The need for the evacuation ramp became apparent after the 2020 Almeda Fire, the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) said in a news release, noting that fire began not far away. South winds carried the flames north toward Talent and Phoenix.
Traffic on I-5 and North Mountain is not expected to be affected by the construction work, but drivers should watch for trucks entering and exiting the freeway shoulder.
ODOT and Ashland crews will work together on the on-ramp as weather permits so it will be ready before fire season begins.
When complete, access to the on-ramp will be blocked by a locked gate that will only be opened in the event of an emergency.
Email Ashland.news editor Bert Etling at email@example.com or call him at 541-631-1313. Follow him on Twitter at @betling.
Jan. 19 update: Date in first paragraph corrected.