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Merlin Exit 61 Improvements Discussed

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GRANTS PASS, Ore. – For years, Josephine County officials and state highway engineers have been wrangling over a way to make the Merlin interchange at Exit 61 safer and more efficient.

Now, it appears ODOT designers are ready to move ahead with a project. State highway officials laid out before Josephine County Commissioners their plans for making the Merlin Interchange safer and more efficient. It would involve a new southbound off-ramp, traffic signals, and turn lanes from monument drive.

“So this plan is designed and the reason it’s broken up into phases is because we don’t need to build anything until the development actually happens,” said ODOT Spokesman John McDonald. “If nothing happens in the area, if no ground is broken on any of those parcels out there that are currently vacant, we don’t need to build a thing!”

“I guess my big thing is getting that dedicated right turn. That, to me, is the most critical part, for any of this right now. From what I see, and I’m out there and there’s a lot of backing up […] At Monument Drive and Merlin Road,” said Josephine County Commissioner Harold Haugen.

The ODOT plan would make the 61 Interchange on I-5 like most others, with a diamond pattern for on and off-ramps and they say it should not impact many adjacent landowners because the state already owns most of the land around the interchange.

ODOT officials say there’s not enough money right now to rebuild all of the Merlin interchange, but one of the top priorities would be to get a right turn lane off of Monument Drive so that some of the traffic wouldn’t be backing up all the time. The other would be to replace this southbound off-ramp, and it’s non-standard. Officials say it’s just an accident waiting to happen.