U.S. 31 crossing project planned

In a few years, students, residents and shoppers crossing U.S. 31 in Franklin will have a safer route.

The city is planning a $675,000 project at Mallory Parkway and U.S. 31 to improve the crosswalk. The work is expected to be done in 2019, city officials said.

In addition to a painted crosswalk, the project will include building new sidewalks, installing new stop signals and constructing a pedestrian island in the middle of U.S. 31. The project potentially will include the correction of some drainage issues along the highway, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

School and city officials have discussed the need for work at the intersection for years. On the east side of the highway are Northwood Elementary School and Franklin Community Middle School. On the west side are shopping centers, restaurants and homes.

Earlier this year, that intersection was identified as one of the key areas in the city that needed an upgrade so students could more safely walk and bike to school.

The intersection was part of a master plan of projects submitted to the federal Safe Routes to School program, which works with communities to improve the health and well-being of children by enabling and encouraging them to walk and bike to school.

The master plan examines conditions around schools and develops projects and activities to improve safety and accessibility and reduce traffic and air pollution near schools.

About 430 students live less than a mile west of U.S. 31, with 131 of those students living within a quarter-mile of the schools, school officials have said. About a third of the students potentially could cross that intersection daily. And school officials have seen children riding bikes in traffic to get to school.

The new crosswalk would help people more safely cross U.S. 31, including by adding a place in the middle of the road where pedestrians could stop before crossing the rest of the highway.

The Federal Highway Administration will pay for 90 percent of project costs, with Franklin responsible for the remaining 10 percent. The maximum estimate for the project, including right-of-way costs, is $675,000, meaning that the city’s costs would be a maximum of $67,500.

The city’s portion of the project costs could be split with Franklin schools, McGuinness said.