More than 25 years from now, drivers could be getting on and off Interstate 65 using the county’s seventh interchange, and driving on wider roads to get there.
But that all depends on what growth comes to Franklin through businesses and housing in the next two decades.
The long-term thoroughfare plan has been in the works for months, and can be used to develop plans to improve roads, bridges, bike lanes and trails, as well as apply for state and local grants. It also helps attract developers by showing the city’s focus on infrastructure improvements, officials have said.
The plan is now being unveiled to city boards and could change based on their feedback. The goal is to eventually include the list of potential projects in the city’s comprehensive plan, which is a guide for development citywide in the future, Franklin senior planner Alex Getchell said.
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As of now, the long-term road plan includes widening several roads, including Jefferson Street, King Street, Graham Road, Commerce Drive, Centerline Road and Earlywood Drive, building new connector roads and a new I-65 interchange at Earlywood Drive, according to the plan.
Also on the list of projects: Straightening curves along Graham Road, north of Commerce Drive, and improving County Road 200N, which connects with Commerce Drive.
If and when those projects happen will depend on two major factors: growth and development in the city, and getting the funding to pay for them, Franklin Mayor Steve Barnett said.
“It may be 20 years from now, but you have to keep looking at it to go forward,” he said.
The long-term plan, which runs through 2045, focuses on key areas officials expect to grow in the future, especially as other land for businesses and housing is developed, Barnett said. The plan was developed by HWC Engineering, which has been working with city officials and also hosted a public meeting earlier this year to get feedback from residents. The city also used population growth projections and jobs forecasts to help develop the plan, Getchell said.
What will be key is that the growth drives those projects as developers come to the city, bringing new industrial businesses to other areas as the current business parks fill, and new homes are built, Barnett said.
For example, if a new, large company comes to one area of the city, upgrades to those roads would take priorities over other projects, Getchell said. And that also includes projects that may come to other areas of the county that could potentially impact Franklin, he said.
The projects will be expensive, Barnett said. For example, the most recent I-65 interchange built in Johnson County at Worthsville Road in Greenwood cost $22 million.
So funding will need to come from multiple sources, including city funds, money from the city’s tax-increment financing, or TIF, districts that set aside property taxes from certain businesses for infrastructure and economic development projects, state funds and possible public-private partnerships — an option the city has not yet explored, Barnett said.
But the projects are necessary for traffic and safety reasons, Barnett said.
One project would straighten out the curves on Graham Road, north of Commerce Drive, which is a key route for traffic, including semis, heading to the city’s industrial area. That project is needed for safety, since serious and fatal crashes have happened on that stretch of road in the past, Barnett said.
Another project would add a connecting road from Brookhaven Drive in the Heritage subdivision on the city’s east side to Commerce Drive. That road would not only relieve traffic in that area, but would also provide a second entrance into the growing neighborhood, which could be used by emergency workers trying to get in for a fire or other emergency call, Barnett said.
The city is also continuing to look into projects that would improve safety for pedestrians, especially along main thoroughfares such as U.S. 31, Barnett said.
None of the projects are immediate, and the plan includes several different scenarios of which projects to do and when, which city officials will need to continue to discuss, Barnett said.
But planning for the future is important as growth continues in the city, he said.
“You just don’t put a plan together without a mind for the long term,” he said.
“I wouldn’t be doing my job if we didn’t look out that far.”