Look closely as you drive around Franklin, and you’ll see the destruction.
Deep ruts in the grass and tire marks over the new curbs and sidewalks on downtown streets.
A utility pole at Home and Wayne streets leaning because semi-truck after semi-truck have grazed the guy wire as they turn to get around downtown construction.
Trees run over and broken off in residents’ yards, curbs driven over repeatedly and, in some cases, gas line markers knocked down and one of the city’s new light poles knocked over.
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Franklin has had a truck route bypassing downtown and a $250 fine in place for years for semis that ignore the route and come through the heart of the city without making a delivery, but was able to step up enforcement once the city took ownership of State Road 44/Jefferson Street through the city.
With Jefferson Street under construction again and no direct way to get to U.S. 31, the trucks that are ignoring the route are wreaking havoc, blocking traffic and costing residents and the city money in repairs. The problem is one that new Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett has heard about repeatedly from residents since he became mayor, and he has had enough.
“If we’re going to be a walking community, we don’t want these trucks here,” Barnett said.
The city has purchased a giant message sign that directs semis to the truck route and wipes away any possible excuse of drivers not seeing the signs. Officials are trying again to get GPS companies to update the Franklin map to reflect the truck route. He and the city council are on board with paying police officers overtime to focus solely on catching semis that are coming into downtown without a local delivery and issuing a warning or ticket.
He is monitoring whether the changes are helping and noting additional places that signs could go up, but the number of side streets that could lead trucks into downtown from U.S. 31 or other routes are numerous.
So far, the messaging sign at Eastview Drive is helping, construction workers throughout the city have told Barnett.
Barnett doesn’t want to hear the excuses, and truck drivers have plenty. Some drivers say they can’t turn around when heading south on Main Street after making a delivery to the restaurants at U.S. 31.
Not true, the mayor said. The roundabout on Main Street is big enough for semis to turn around and head back north to 31 and get on the truck route, for example.
You might have seen a Franklin police officer sitting near Eastview Drive and U.S. 31 for months. The officer is watching for semis that don’t take the truck route, and stopping the drivers, asking them to provide proof of making a delivery downtown. If he or she isn’t, they face a ticket or warning.
Barnett wanted more enforcement, and police officers are being paid overtime to watch for semis downtown eight hours a day, for two days each week during the next couple of months. But outside of the overtime enforcement, Barnett wants officers enforcing the truck ban at all times when they aren’t responding to an emergency call or taking a police report.
This is a priority, he said.
Since late 2014, police have written 74 warnings and 159 tickets, according to data from the police department. Eight of the warnings and 11 of the tickets were written since Feb. 9, which is shortly after Barnett took office and asked police chief Tim O’Sullivan to increase enforcement of the truck ban downtown.
Barnett said he is not trying to ticket the semis to make money for the city.
“Just get out of downtown,” Barnett said.
City engineer Mark Richards has learned that, despite request from truck drivers and trucking companies, Google does not reflect communities’ truck routes on its mapping system, and also still shows State Road 44 as a state road through Franklin.
On March 10, a semi cut through the city parking lot between Jefferson, Jackson and Monroe streets, and employees at a nearby business saw it run over a curb, gas line marker and a tree and light pole in a curb island. The employees could hear the truck hitting the objects.
They then saw the truck speed off and drive through the construction on Jefferson Street and turn north on Walnut Street, knocking down barricades, a Franklin police report said. Police found the semi at Banta Street and U.S. 31 and the driver initially did not stop, the report said. He told the officer he didn’t see the detour signs through the construction zone or the truck route signs. He was issued a summons to appear in court for leaving the scene of an accident and other violations, the report said.
Last year, a semi downtown knocked down the brick wall at Jefferson and Main streets, Barnett said.
A police report from March 26 details that a semi-truck driver ignored the truck route signs and headed into downtown that evening. Seeing that Jefferson Street is closed for construction, the driver headed into a residential area and hit trees at the intersection of Herriott and Jackson streets.
Downtown resident Sheila Ingle said she was getting ready for work that evening and saw the semi-truck jack-knifed in an intersection. Police officers arrived and tried to guide the driver through the intersection. He was given a ticket.
Ingle said she has noticed more semi traffic on residential streets north of Jefferson Street after construction started and the road closed. Oftentimes, motorists have to pull over and wait for a semi to drive down the street because there isn’t room for drivers, a semi-truck and the cars parked on the side of the street, she said.
“If they’re not delivering downtown, they should be taking the truck route,” she said.
Franklin truck route
From Interstate 65: Truckers should turn onto Eastview Drive from King Street, following the road as it turns into Arvin Drive. Then, turn onto Commerce Parkway, which connects with U.S. 31.
Truck route enforcement
Franklin police have been enforcing the truck ban downtown, making sure semis use the truck route and bypass, since late 2014.
Number of warnings given: 74
Number of tickets given: 159
Fine associated with ticket: $250