Central Point officials work on Pine Street plan

CENTRAL POINT — After a meeting in January found citizens and business owners unable to agree on either a three- or four-lane design for a revamped Pine Street, city officials say consultants will offer a thorough look at multiple design options this summer.

Consultants, city officials and residents met in January to hash out ways to give the downtown a needed facelift using funds from a newly formed urban renewal district. An ad hoc committee composed largely of business owners favored four lanes to accommodate traffic flow and parking needs, while residents leaned toward a three-lane, "Main Street" design with lower speed limits and improved aesthetics.

Community Development Director Tom Humphrey said the city is working with state officials and consultants to produce two mock-ups of four-lane design options for Pine Street as well as a three-lane option.

Discussions of Pine Street's configuration have been going on since 1999, when a study was conducted to evaluate both three- and four-lane options. The city's main drag, once two lanes of traffic with a center divide, was modified in the early 1980s to its current four lanes.

Some citizens say the change hurt downtown by increasing speed limits, removing mature trees and narrowing sidewalks.

Rick Samuelson, whose family owns Judy's Central Point Florist, was pleased with the news that all possible design alternatives would be reviewed. City officials had said at the January meeting that just one design option would be pursued.

Samuelson, who favors a four-lane design, has voiced concerns about safety for pedestrians and limited parking options in the downtown.

"It's fantastic they're going to do more than one," Samuelson said. "I think the streetscape will look nicer whether it becomes an improved four lanes or three. And that hopefully would encourage other business owners to improve their facades."

Humphrey said the design drafts will be completed using actual photos of the downtown and should be ready for review by late June or early July. Another public meeting will be held before city officials make a final decision, he said.

When improvements are finally made, they will probably come in phases using funds diverted from area taxing districts and funneled into the recently created urban renewal district.

"We have money identified in our urban renewal plan in the future years to make needed improvements," Humphrey said. "We just have to agree on improvements and have things in place for when the money is made available."

Buffy Pollock is a freelance writer living in Medford. Email her at buffyp76@yahoo.com.

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