>The project marks the first step in a long-term plan by the city to expand eastward
By Troy Foster
   News Editor
   Phase I of what is hoped to be an ongoing J Street expansion project is nearing completion, paving the way for improved infrastructure in an area of Madras some believe will be the site of continued growth.
   Approximately $419,000 has been invested into the 2,700-foot expansion of J Street eastward to McTaggart Road, which is the first step in establishing a second major east-west connection through the city. The other is Ashwood Lane.
   Madras Public Works officials expect paving to begin next week and phase I of the project to be completed by Nov. 22.
   The city and county in a joint venture decided J Street needed to be expanded to eventually create another link from Highway 97 to the area around Jefferson County Middle School.
   It is intended to relieve traffic and improve access for emergency vehicles. It is also the first major road improvement done with an eye toward the coming state prison, which will have a huge impact on traffic.
   Ultimately, as part of the city's long-term transportation plan, J Street will hook up with Clairmont Road, which may one day be extended to Highway 97 north of town near the old Cherry Road. The entire project would cost an estimated $2.3 million.
   But any future growth of J Street may be delayed until some problems between 4th Street and 5th Street are tackled, Public Works Superintendent George Raines said.
   "The south 'Y' needs to be addressed as more of the east is developed before we get more funding," Raines said. "It'll probably be a couple more years."
   Few vehicles can fit on J Street between the 4th and 5th street couplet, Raines noted. That will have to be solved, he said, because as J Street expands so will usage of that narrow portion between the busy U.S. highways.
   Nevertheless, completion of phase I will be a marked improvement. It was funded through a $380,000 grant from ODOT, while the city and county each coughed up $45,000 apiece and the Central Oregon Intergovernmental Council contributed $90,000. Hap Taylor and Sons Inc. holds the contract. Wilson Curb Construction, which is creating the street's new sidewalks, is a subcontractor.
   The county did preliminary engineering work and conducted grade filling between Sun Drive and McTaggart before the city took the reins of the project.
   When finished, the street will be wider, longer and up to the highest of city standards -- although some residents in the Dave's Homes development south of J Street have opposed more traffic in their area.
   Construction began during the first week of October as a project expected to be completed in no more than 60 days. Only freezing weather could delay completion at this point, Raines said.
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