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City prepares for more Main Street work

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Construction crews closed down part of North Main Street in Franklin for a year forcing drivers to detour, while residents and businesses were left wondering what was being done and when it would finish.

Now construction will close parts of the road again until November, but the city is taking extra steps to make sure people are informed throughout the project.

Franklin finished the first $3.6 million phase of North Main Street in August by rebuilding the roadway from Jefferson Street to the Graham Street intersection, putting in new underground drains and adding new sidewalks and decorative lighting. You can expect to see similar improvements being made from Graham Street to U.S. 31 over the next eight months.

The first project didn’t go as smoothly as the city would have liked. Residents complained when workers unexpectedly cut down trees on their property. Construction crews closed and ripped up all of the roadway along the entire section being worked on, forcing drivers to detour. Businesses struggled when customers couldn’t easily get to their shops.

After the work was done, residents raised concerns about signs placed in the middle of the sidewalks, and the city worried too many streetlights made the street too bright for residents at night.

Residents still have questions as the second phase of construction is about to begin, including where they will be able to park and how they will get to their homes. The city is trying to alleviate concerns and address questions by communicating early and often with homeowners and businesses. City officials already have hosted meetings, and they met with property owners in an effort to avoid the complaints and questions that were frequent during the first phase.

Next, officials plan to go door-to-door to talk to residents living between Graham Street and Oliver Avenue or leave door hangers with information before construction starts at the end of the month. CrossRoad Engineers will set up a website, where people can track progress and get an early notice of when work in an area will begin.

The city will send out emails with biweekly construction updates, including information about what is happening and where, city engineer Travis Underhill said.

The $4.7 million project is being broken into four smaller sections instead of tearing up the nearly mile-long road at once. That means drivers will still be able to get to homes or businesses in areas that haven’t been started yet or are completed, Underhill said.

“We learned a lot from Main Street Phase 1,” Mayor Joe McGuinness said. “We’ve made some corrections for Main Street Phase 2.”

The project is being funded with federal grant dollars, which cover 80 percent of the construction cost. Franklin’s portion, $934,000, is being covered with money in the city’s tax-increment financing districts. Those funds come from special tax districts where some taxes on businesses are set aside for economic development and infrastructure projects.

The work will be similar to what was done last year, including tearing out and rebuilding the road, installing drains, adding new sidewalks and putting in decorative lighting and trees. New features include small gathering areas with decorative concrete at four intersections. The first roundabout in Franklin will be built at the intersection of Oliver, Clark and Walnut streets.

Both stoplights currently on North Main Street will be removed because one will become a roundabout and the other, at Circle Drive, is being removed because of the low amount of traffic.

The section between Graham Street and the planned roundabout will be closed by the end of this month, Underhill said. Construction on that section will take two to three months to complete. People also might see crews tearing down the former Village Pantry building at 927 Walnut St. in April unless Anderson-based E&B Paving decides to use it as a temporary construction office until work on the roundabout starts.

Construction workers will start on the roundabout once school is out for the summer and likely will overlap with construction on the first section. The roundabout should be finished by the time school starts in August, Underhill said.

After the roundabout, workers will start on the next section from the roundabout to the post office, followed by the third phase continuing to U.S. 31. Each section is expected to take two to three months to complete, Underhill said.

The information the city is giving out about what’s being done and when should give people plenty of time to prepare to detour, find a new place to park or warn customers of upcoming construction. The road will be closed, but residents will be able to get to their homes, and officials hope they use the alleys.

For Aaron and Amy Root, an alley is not an option. They have a driveway where they can park and have been told they’ll be able to access North Main Street and continue to park at home. But Aaron Root doesn’t know yet if that will mean driving off a 6-inch drop every day or if they’ll get a temporary ramp.

Theresa Flake hopes there will be space to park in the alley behind her home because after some recent medical issues she can’t walk two or three blocks from a side street, she said. She’s also noticed how bright the completed portion of North Main Street to the south is and worries a nearby streetlight will make her bedroom too bright.

The roadway needs repairs, but for the cost and inconvenience of construction, she’s not convinced the new sidewalks and lights are worth the trouble, Flake said.

“I’m afraid it’s going to be a mess,” she said.

Her neighbor Grant Brant isn’t concerned at all. He already parks behind his house, sleeps in a back bedroom and thinks North Main Street is long overdue for repairs. The gas company moved a pipeline under the sidewalk, which may create a hassle if there is ever a gas leak, but otherwise he’s ready for construction, he said.

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