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Central Point's street planning moves forward

CENTRAL POINT-- The south Medford interchange isn't the only place these days where traffic piles up in the Rogue Valley. Try crossing Front Street at East Pine in Central Point during rush hour, when cars traveling from all directions back up, sometimes for two blocks, downtown.

A new traffic study recommends several improvements in the area north and south along West Pine Street, where lack of road access and poor traffic circulation patterns are obstacles to residential and commercial development.

The study, from the JRH consulting company of Eugene, recommends signals at Scenic and Highway 99 (at an estimated cost of $380,000) and Haskell and Pine streets ($130,000). It also calls for a third street crossing over the highway and the railroad tracks between Scenic and Pine streets ($380,000).

The traffic analysis was presented to the Planning Commission for feedback Tuesday. The commission has tentatively approved two subdivisions off Taylor Road near Brad Way, based on the developers' agreement to making road improvements recommended in the study.

What I'm hoping will come from this is a more efficient transportation network in our northwest quadrant that will facilitate the development of a transportation-oriented activity center, which will put more people closer to downtown and contribute to revitalization, City Planner Tom Humphrey said before the meeting.

Planners agreed with the recommendations Tuesday night and said improvements at Haskell and Pine streets should move to the next level. The remainder of the projects will be included in Central Point's transportation system plan, a comprehensive document that outlines road improvements.

Developer Brett Moore, of W.L. Moore Construction, wants to build a subdivision of about 20 lots off of Taylor Road. It's part of a larger, master-planned development adjacent to the property.

It seems like most of the recommendations make sense, Moore said prior to the meeting. I think they pretty well identified what the current needs are and what the needs will be down the road, with the increased population that's going to come.

Moore, along with another developer and the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, paid for the $17,000 traffic study, while the city donated staff time.

The city has to look at various avenues and ways of paying for the improvements, Moore said. We've always said we'll be a part of (the funding). We just want to be a fair part of it.

The third highway railroad crossing between Scenic and Pine streets is critical and would provide access to the last largest area slated for development in the city's urban growth boundary.

The reason it hasn't developed in the last 20 years is because it has poor access, Humphrey said.

A third crossing would impact the success of the city's downtown revitalization project, and the Transportation Oriented Development (TOD) project -- a regionwide planning effort to decrease the use of cars, use land more efficiently and improve the quality of life for residents.

The city's next step is to meet with developers and others to figure a fair way to spread the cost of the improvements for the proposed subdivisions, adopt the traffic study recommendations for the city-wide transportation plan and look at funding for the recommended road improvements.