Franklin residents who live along a major road into downtown set for reconstruction next year may be able to get a tree planted in a different spot in their yard or have a new parking space on the street, but they’ll have to ask.
After upset home and business owners raised concerns about the first half of the project on North Main Street, city officials and engineers were glad to listen to questions, concerns and requests in the first of several planned meetings and updates.
Franklin officials have learned their lesson after the first phase of construction, which was completed this month after a year of road work. During that time residents and business owners were upset about trees being cut down, confused about when streets were being closed, questioned why only half of Madison Street was upgraded and weary of traveling over and around streets that were torn up for months at time.
About 75 people packed into city hall Wednesday to learn about the next phase of the project, from Herriott Street to U.S. 31, and ask questions. Work on the project is scheduled to start in March.
The message to residents from the firm designing the project was clear: Tell us what you want. If possible, engineers may be able to tweak the current plans to move a tree or streetlight or add additional parking spaces.
“If you have concerns, call us, email us, have us pay you a visit,” CrossRoad Engineers vice president Trent Newport said.
Starting next year, construction crews will rebuild the road from Herriott Street to U.S. 31 and add new sidewalks and streetlights. The project also includes the city’s first roundabout at the intersection with Clark Street, Walnut Street and Oliver Avenue.
Construction will be broken into three phases, and sections of North Main Street will be closed for about two to three months before workers move on to the next section.
Residents raised questions about parking spots being eliminated, tree placement and general information about the roundabout. Newport asked residents to send emails or turn in comment forms with their specific concerns so engineers could review the plans and consider making adjustments. Engineers will review all the
comments and see whether the plans can be altered to make minor adjustments, such as adding extra parking spaces or changing where trees or streetlights will be installed, he said.
Clark and Debbie Phelps stopped to talk with engineers after finding out new sidewalks, grass and a decorative concrete post at their corner lot would eliminate five parking spaces. The nearest on-street parking will be next door, south of their home on North Main Street. Their narrow driveway off Robinson Street isn’t big enough to fit two cars, they said.
“We’re going to lose five spots. We can’t park in front of our house,” Debbie Phelps said.
They asked engineers to consider eliminating the concrete post at the corner or to cut out part of the green space and create at least one parking space.
Dennis and Kathy Streit wanted to know whether the underground drain pipes from their home to the street would be blocked or cut during construction and also how they would access the driveway of their home when the road is torn up.
Engineers likely won’t be able to find a solution for every concern, but having a discussion keeps residents informed as the project approaches, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said. For example, trees were already cut down along the first phase before the city had a public meeting about the project in April 2012, and multiple residents complained.
This week’s meeting was meant to keep the public informed about the $4.4 million project in an effort to reduce surprises and confusion when road crews start ripping up the road in the spring, McGuinness said. Residents could ask questions or talk with engineers one-on-one if they didn’t want to get up in front the whole group.
“It was exactly what it should be,” he said.
“If this project was coming to my home, I’d have the same types of questions. I expected to hear those exact comments.”
Before construction starts, the city could host another informational meeting and engineers will talk with or visit property owners to address common concerns, such as tree placement or on-street parking. City officials also plan to email bi-weekly project updates and have a roundabout education meeting after work starts next year.
The city started some of those efforts early this year after the first phase was partially complete, but are making the effort to get as much information out before work starts on the second phase of the project.
Residents who missed the meeting will have an opportunity to provide feedback on the project before the final plans are submitted to the state for approval in November, Newport said. Residents can review the plans at city hall and can email or call CrossRoad Engineers or work with city staff to make sure the comments are sent to engineers, he said.
“We want some input. We know all those things are important,” Newport said.