Every day for two months, officers ticketed or warned semitrailer-truck drivers in downtown Franklin.
And in the past month, city officials contacted Google and GPS companies to ask that they update their maps to reflect the new truck route for larger vehicles.
Their goal was to get the word out to truckers to use a designated route — other than the city’s main downtown street — when going from Interstate 65 to U.S. 31 or the city’s business parks. They wanted to redirect them to the city’s truck route, which officials plan to improve in coming years with four miles of trails and up to five roundabouts. And they don’t want thousands of semis driving through downtown, as that leads to deteriorated streets, potholes and possible danger when pedestrians are walking downtown.
Mayor Joe McGuinness and business owners have noticed fewer semis on Jefferson Street, but one resident is concerned that too many semi drivers still take Jefferson Street instead of the truck route of Eastview Drive, Arvin Drive and Commerce Drive. New signs were put up last year, and bigger 3-by-5-foot signs were installed in January to make the point more clear to westbound drivers on King Street.
But the signs are not enough to deter trucks from taking the most direct route along Jefferson Street, resident Jim Curry said.
Curry, a retired professor from Franklin College, lives at King and Forsythe streets. He hears the semis slam on their brakes and puff black smoke as they start through the King-Forsythe intersection.
On Saturday, Curry noticed so many semis back-to-back that it seemed like a train was driving on King Street, he said.
“I went out on the porch and sat down for five minutes, and I saw six semis pass by,” Curry said.
Franklin now is responsible for four miles of State Road 44, starting with everything west of the Interstate 65 exit ramp. Last year, the city established a truck route so semis did not drive in downtown Franklin. But city officials have had issues with updating state agencies, motorists and mapping companies such as Google Maps and Garmin about both the new ownership of the road and the new truck route. If semi drivers are using a GPS system to get to their destination, the systems still suggest driving on Jefferson Street as the route to U.S. 31, McGuinness said.
One problem is that truck drivers on U.S. 31 don’t have signs directing them to the new truck route. City officials want signs installed on U.S. 31, especially at Jefferson Street, but the Indiana Department of Transportation has to approve and install the new signs, since the state maintains the highway.
Requests to add no-turn for trucks signs to U.S. 31 were sent to the state last year, Lt. Kerry Atwood said. So far, city officials have not heard if new signs will be added.
The city plans to repave Jefferson and King streets over the next five years, and by semis taking an alternative route the asphalt should last much longer before experiencing potholes or lumpy pavement, officials said. It also keeps pedestrians safer, and people who park on the street will not have to worry about their car possibly getting hit by a semi passing on the narrow street.
Although the number of semis driving on Jefferson Street has gone down, the trucks still rattle windows of storefronts. Brick Street Boutique owner Molly Frische notices fewer semis driving by the store, but she still is nervous about crossing the street if semis are driving on the street, she said.
Curry knows that some trucks will have to go downtown for food deliveries at restaurants or delivering furniture at the stores on Jefferson Street. But too many other trucks also make their way downtown, Curry said.
Semis with local store names plastered on the side seem to cut through Franklin using Jefferson Street, Curry said, even though the alternate truck route is in place so driving downtown can be avoided.
“Those are the ones that police should be ticketing, that know better,” Curry said.
Since the truck route opened about a year ago, two tickets have been issued, while the rest of the traffic stops have been warnings, Atwood said.
From mid-October through January, Franklin Police Department officers routinely watched traffic that came through on Jefferson and King streets on every shift, Atwood said. Officers pulled over semi drivers, gave them warnings and offered a copy of the new truck route so drivers would be more aware, Atwood said. Officers were watching for semis to come through downtown Franklin for about six hours total within a 24-hour period, Atwood said.
Drivers were pulled over and warned on a daily basis, he said. Officers would follow some truck drivers through town and would warn a driver if they did not make a delivery in the downtown area, Atwood said.
The police department stopped the continued surveillance after officers felt they gave enough warning to drivers, Atwood said. But officers can start tracking semis again if they need to, he said.
When drivers use GPS systems or their phones to navigate through Franklin, the truck route does not come up. And officials have made attempts to update the maps so truckers are rerouted, McGuinness said.
Just last week, city officials filled out a form to ask Google Maps to update its maps. In the form, officials asked to show the correct street name of King Street instead of State Road 44 near the I-65 exit ramp, he said. Since submitting the form, it clearly shows a distinct difference between State Road 44 on the east side of the exit ramp, heading toward Ivy Tech Community College and Cooper Tire and Rubber, and King Street on the west heading into the city.
Officials are working toward updating GPS devices such as Garmin, Tom-Toms and Magellan so that truck drivers receive the most up-to-date route when driving near Franklin.
Within the past month, Indiana State Police officers were unaware that part of State Road 44 was turned over to Franklin, McGuinness said. When he attended a meeting about I-65 construction, a state police officer mentioned that they would reroute traffic through Franklin using State Road 44. Both Franklin city officials and the Indiana Department of Transportation were quick to note that State Road 44 is not a good route for drivers to avoid I-65 traffic.
Now, the state police has to come up with a different alternative route since that road is no longer a state-owned street, McGuinness said.