CENTRAL POINT — Residents are divided over whether downtown Pine Street should be upgraded to an improved four lanes or reduced to a three-lane "Main Street."

CENTRAL POINT — Residents are divided over whether downtown Pine Street should be upgraded to an improved four lanes or reduced to a three-lane "Main Street."

A series of meetings held last week gave business owners and citizens a chance to weigh in.

Some business owners worry that fewer lanes of traffic would make street parking difficult to navigate and impact surrounding neighborhoods, while some citizens favor three lanes in hopes of improving the look and feel of a lackluster downtown.

Discussions of Pine Street's configuration have been going on since 1999, when a study was conducted to evaluate both three- and four-lane configurations. 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, removal of mature trees and narrowed sidewalks.

Consultants met last week with an appointed oversight committee, made up primarily of business owners who would be affected by changes to Pine Street.

The group voted for consultants to further review improvements to the existing four-lane design that would include trees, benches, improved bulb-outs and lighting.

On Jan. 24, a second meeting found residents siding largely with a reduced three-lane configuration and similar aesthetic improvements.

Community Development Director Tom Humphrey said the city is conducting the process with grant funds from the Oregon Transportation Growth Management program. Under contract guidelines, only one option can be "mocked up" for further review.

Humphrey wants to appeal to transportation officials for a contract modification that would ensure both options get a fair shake, but aesthetic improvements would prove beneficial for either lane configuration, he said.

An advocate of creating "a Main Street feel" for downtown, Humphrey said he was encouraged to hear support for a three-lane design Tuesday.

"I was delighted there were more people for three," he said. "I've been advocating this for a long time. Some businesses think it will detract from business. Ultimately, City Council will have to decide."

Rick Samuelson Jr. of Judy's Central Point Florist said members of the oversight committee were worried that a three-lane configuration wouldn't be as safe for drivers or residents.

"The committee voted to leave it as is because there are a lot of businesses here that are aware of when Pine Street was three lanes and didn't work," Samuelson said.

"I'm not saying it should never go to three lanes, but I'm saying that I'm not confident that this doesn't negatively impact two residential neighborhoods ... And I worry about safety."

Samuelson said fewer lanes of traffic would put vehicles closer together and reduce opportunities for customers to pull out from street parking.

"Three lanes would look cool, no doubt about that. But I have a lot of elderly customers, so there are concerns," he said.

Resident Debbie Saxbury, whose family ran a business downtown during her childhood and who has spearheaded downtown beautification efforts in recent years, favors three lanes. But she said a facelift is in order no matter how many lanes are chosen.

"I just think they need to choose a design that's conducive for everyone — the community and the business owners — and actually follow through with it," Saxbury said.

"The one thing everyone seems to agree on is that we can't leave it the way it is," said Humphrey. "We either have to modify the four lanes that we have now or go to a three-lane. They've essentially shown, factually, that a three-lane road works as well as, if not better than, a four-lane. But there's still a perception that it takes away from business."

More information on the project can be seen online at www.centralpointoregon.gov/dynamic.aspx?id=2498.