By the end of next week, motorists needing to come to downtown Franklin can again turn at the busy U.S. 31 and Jefferson Street intersection and arrive on the courthouse square.
The work to rebuild that portion of Jefferson Street, from the intersection into downtown, has been ongoing since February and will be complete by July 1.
But if you travel to the downtown shops, restaurants or government offices from the east, get ready to detour.
After the July 4 holiday, the city will begin work on the third and fourth phases of a multi-year, $12.1 million project to rebuild Jefferson and King streets, from U.S. 31 to Eastview Drive. First, workers will close and rebuild from the intersection with Main Street to Home Avenue, although the intersection at Main Street will remain open during the work. In mid-September, crews will move to the segment from Home Avenue to the railroad tracks.
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By Thanksgiving, crews should have the road from U.S. 31 to the railroad tracks complete, with a final layer of topcoat and striping.
Two more years of roadwork will follow.
City leaders and representatives from Crossroads Engineers met with residents and business owners this week to explain the next phases of the project and answer questions. Residents and business owners had questions about how they will access their buildings, when sidewalks will be closed, how pedestrians will be able to park and find them and the best detours.
Project leaders want to hear about all the concerns and questions, even property-specific issues, so that situations can be planned for, rather than responded to, said Trent Newport, president of field services for Crossroads.
Detours, such as using Main Street, Madison Avenue and Home or Crowell streets, to get into downtown have been planned. Motorists coming from the east can use Branigin Boulevard and Monroe Street.
Drivers won’t be able to turn onto East Court Street from Jefferson, so project leaders are changing it to a two-way street accessible from Monroe Street only. Two parking spots on the north end of the street will be reserved for drivers to turn around, Newport said.
Water Street, which is one-way north of Jefferson Street, will temporarily become two-way during the upcoming construction as well, to help motorists coming to and from downtown Franklin.
Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett is having crews lay outdoor carpet for pedestrians in the construction zone, to make it clear where they should walk and to keep down the dust.
The goal is to keep access open as much as possible for pedestrians to get to businesses in the downtown area, Newport said. For example, crews will tear out and rebuild sidewalks at businesses’ front doors only after-hours or on weekends. Each business owner will be consulted and the work planned on a case-by-case basis.
Fred Paris, who owns and operates Triple Play BBQ on Jefferson Street, said his business has suffered from the vehicle traffic being cut from 11,000 per day to, some days, hundreds of cars per day, during the construction work earlier this year and the phase that is nearly complete. He is urging the city to add signage to U.S. 31 that makes it clear that the road is closed ahead, but doesn’t discourage drivers from heading into downtown from U.S. 31.
“If they say open to Main, then they can get into our town to shop,” Paris said.
If the signage isn’t clear and traffic does not increase past his restaurant, he will have to develop a plan to cope with the loss of business, he said.
Once phases three and four are complete, drivers will have to get used to a change in traffic patterns. The stoplight at Jefferson Street and Home Avenue is being removed permanently, and north-south traffic on Home Avenue will face stop signs instead. The changing curbs and parking in the area will help improve visibility, Newport said.