Here’s what we know: In-N-Out at Keizer Station will be opening soon. Beyond that, all bets are off.
Expect the fan-favorite burger chain to announce the location’s official opening about 48 hours before the day it happens, at least that’s what has happened elsewhere.
Expect there to be people “camping” in the vicinity of the building at some point shortly after the announcement is made.
Expect there to be long waits for your first, or next, double-double animal style. When the chain opened its Medford location – Oregon’s first In-N-Out – there were projected waits of up to four hours. It didn’t matter whether one was in line at the counter or drive-thru.
Expect there to be increased traffic. There are no forecasts for how much additional traffic might arrive in Keizer, but there are at least four viable Interstate 5 exits that drivers could use to access Keizer Station. All but Exit 260 could lead drivers through Keizer on their way to In-N-Out. News of In-N-Out coming to Keizer has been covered all over the state and as far north as Seattle. As soon as the doors open, the Keizer location becomes the closest In-N-Out to Portland, Bend, Seattle, most of the Oregon coast and every other town with California transplants in-between.
Expect the traffic impacts to last for weeks, especially as the holiday shopping season unfurls and all those trips to the Woodburn Factory Stores begin to include side trips to In-N-Out. The city manager in Medford said it was more than a couple of weeks before things settled down.
Or, maybe, just maybe, expect all this prognostication will turn into a big, fat “nothing burger.” When a second Oregon In-N-Out opened in Grants Pass – 40 minutes north of Medford in 2017 – plans were made for apocalyptic traffic impacts and everything was smooth sailing prompting the editor of the Grants Pass Daily Courier to call for a round of double-doubles for the traffic planning team.
Keizertimes talked with local leaders about their plans for the opening and city managers in Medford and Grants Pass about their experiences with an In-N-Out opening in their towns.
“We have been in discussions with In-N-Out for months now regarding traffic upon their opening. We are going to allow them to take the lead on traffic control because they have a lot of experience surrounding the topic,” said Chris Eppley, Keizer city manager.
Eppley said the city will have resources standing by to help, but “realistically, our resources will be overwhelmed immediately.”
In the previous Oregon openings, private security personnel were hired to help direct traffic in the area around the locations. While there are numerous areas in Keizer Station where In-N-Out traffic could stack and pull cars off streets, it remains to be seen how many other shopping center tenants will be willing to part with those spaces in the run-up to Christmas.
Eppley said Keizer Station has some capacity to absorb burger-lovers, but that it is possible traffic will spill over to Interstate 5. The highway is the jurisdiction of the Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT). ODOT isn’t making any special plans for the opening, said Lou Torres, an ODOT spokesperson.
“The In-N-Out location is a good one-half mile from the I-5 Chemawa Interchange. It is hard to believe that folks will want to wait in a queue that long for a hamburger,” Torres said. “However, ODOT is not planning to do anything special regarding the opening.”
Cherriots also plans to monitor traffic as the restaurant opens. If logjams occur, there might be impacts to bus traffic passing through the Keizer Station transit center.
“If traffic starts to impede Cherriots routes, we will detour buses around Keizer Station,” said Allan Pollack, Cherriots general manger.
On weekdays, detours may affect Route 11 – Lancaster/Verda, Route 12 – Hayesville Drive, and Route 14 – Windsor Island Road. On Saturdays, Route 11 – Lancaster/Verda and Route 19 – Broadway/River Road may be affected. Riders should visit Cherriots.org/alerts for the latest updates on any detours or stop closures in Keizer Station.
Brian Sjothun, current Medford city manager, was overseeing the city’s parks at the time In-N-Out opened and said the company brings in its A-team for the first couple of weeks.
“They were a really valuable resource to have as far as training their employees but also for handling general operations and traffic issues,” Sjothun said. “I think the car stacking in the parking lot of the mall was brilliant.”
For Medford, the opening of an In-N-Out paid off in other ways as well. Because the chain prides itself on the freshness of its ingredients, it opened up a small distribution center in the city to serve other locations in the region.
In Grants Pass, City Manager Aaron Cubic said plans developed by In-N-Out that included some additional help from the city’s public safety department went off without a hitch. There also wasn’t a traffic impact that lasted weeks as it did in Medford.
“During this same time, we had a number of new businesses and building retrofits in this same area and do not have any data that separates out In-N-Out impact,” Cubic said. “We have certainly seen a rise in our tourism stats, though I cannot contribute them to In-N-Out at this time.”
Back in Medford, Sjothun said most locals waited a few weeks before venturing into the joint, but admitted “the experience is kind of fun.”