CENTRAL POINT — A more than $5 million overhaul of Pine Street will begin this week, transforming a section of the downtown core with improved aesthetics and functionality, officials said.

Longtime locals will notice a return to the tree-lined streets last seen in the 1980s, while the traveling public will enjoy improved traffic flow and wider sidewalks.

Public Works Director Matt Samitore said the city received two bids on the project last month, with contractor Pilot Rock Excavation submitting the low bid of $5,138,327.

Work is set to begin today or Tuesday, he said.

Plans for the project include keeping the same four-lane configuration while slightly reducing the size of each lane to allow for wider sidewalks.

“Just by shrinking the travel lanes by one foot each, it gave us four feet to work with so the sidewalks will now be 10 feet wide,” Samitore said.

“We will be able to provide a safer way for people to get across the blocks and in between.”

Most noticeably, wider sidewalks, street trees and flowering pots will be a significant facelift for the sleepy downtown. Functionally, a traffic signal at Third Street will be taken out and moved to Second Street, with updates in store for the Fourth Street signal.

Explained Samitore, “The signals at Second and Third are antiquated and needed to be upgraded significantly. They were also too close together, so this will help with traffic flow. When the project is completed, we’ll have a signal at Second and Fourth, and the one at Third will be eliminated.”

“During the school year, during the lunch hour between 11 a.m. and 1 p.m., there are quite a few students from Crater that walk from the high school to the downtown core. As it is now, they walk across Second Street without safety precautions, and we’ve seen a lot of near misses,” he said.

“Thankfully, we haven’t had one at this point, but it’s one of the secondary reasons the signal is being moved to Second,” Samitore said.

In addition to the wider sidewalks, a flashing pedestrian beacon is planned for Sixth Street, and water main improvements are slated for Front Street between Manzanita and Pine and on Pine Street from Front to Seventh Street.

Samitore said the project would be constructed in phases to minimize effects on local business.

“All businesses will have access at all times. We want to get the word out, ‘Please don’t let the construction deter you from visiting our local businesses,' ” he said.

The section of downtown between First and Front streets, during work to the nearby rail crossing, was updated in 2004, and Samitore said the pending project is the last of the downtown core area that has needed to be redone since the 1980s.

“The majority of this project covers First through Seventh, which hasn’t had anything done since the 1980s,” he added, acknowledging that most longtime locals would be pleased to see the street trees return to the downtown.

“Everything comes full circle, right?”

Samitore said project information, including traffic updates, will be posted to the city website, centralpointoregon.gov/publicworks

— Reach freelance writer Buffy Pollock at buffyp76@yahoo.com