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City targets dangerous intersection

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Concrete medians and a new turn lane could cut down on accidents and backups at Franklin’s most dangerous intersection, but right now no work is planned.

The intersection of Westview Drive and U.S. 31 has been deemed the city’s most dangerous, with an average of about one accident per week since the start of the year. City officials want something to be done and are working to convince the state, which is responsible for the intersection, that the work should be a priority.

The problems with the intersection add up: When you pull up to the intersection to make a left turn from Westview Drive, it’s tough to see cars coming across the intersection from North Main Street. If you’re turning right onto Westview from the highway, you have to watch for people using the wide shoulder as a turn lane and for drivers trying to turn across multiple lanes as they leave nearby businesses.

And while some roads are busy only during rush hour, the intersection is packed most times during the day and on weekends as people stop for groceries or turn off U.S. 31 to head downtown or west out of the city, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.

Right now, the Indiana Department of Transportation isn’t planning any work at the intersection. But officials want to convince the state that safety improvements are a priority, and the city is willing to pay to analyze the intersection and design a construction project.

They will split up their calls: The mayor can start with state officials at the central office in Indianapolis, while city engineer Travis Underhill will work with INDOT representatives in the Seymour district that includes Franklin. They plan to share information about the problems observed locally, traffic counts and accident numbers in order to persuade the state to pay for the project, Underhill said.

“The road is what we live with on a daily basis, and we want to make sure whatever is done meets the needs of the motorists whether they live here, work here or are traveling through here,” McGuinness said.

There’s no estimate for how much construction would cost because city officials aren’t sure what needs to be done to make the intersection safer, Underhill said. Based on similar projects, the cost would likely top

$1 million. Projects to widen intersections along County Line Road this year will cost $1.5 million. Projects to widen or add roundabouts at four intersections along Franklin’s truck route in the future might cost $1.6 million each.

The city also would seek federal grants that would pay for 80 percent of construction costs, Underhill said.

Since it’s a state-owned road, the city doesn’t want to pay for the construction but wants to have as much input as possible in designing the project, McGuinness said.

The city has been working closely with the state on projects on North Main Street and on Jefferson and King streets. Now that construction started on Main Street and the state turned over ownership of State Road 44, McGuinness now wants to turn the state’s attention back to the dangerous intersection, which is a top priority for Franklin.

An accident study done last year showed motorists are much more likely to crash there than anywhere else in the city. More than 150 wrecks have happened at the intersection since 2009, and 27,000 vehicles pass through each day.

Of the 16 accidents that have occurred at the intersection since

Jan. 1, 14 have been at or near Westview Drive, and only two occurred at North Main Street on the east side, according to Franklin Police Department statistics.

The state removed a right-turn lane on southbound U.S. 31 because trucks trying to make the turn kept falling off the road. Without that turn lane, traffic frequently backs up in the right lane and leads to several rear-end accidents when drivers aren’t paying attention and don’t stop in time.

Multiple businesses, including a nearby bank, supermarket and shopping center, create more traffic turning onto or crossing lanes on Westview Drive, creating more opportunities for accidents, McGuinness said. If the state agrees to a project, Franklin would consider ways to more safely route traffic coming out of those businesses, which might include a concrete median on Westview Drive to cut off people trying to make left turns across multiple lanes.

Franklin will complete construction on North Main Street to U.S. 31 this year, which includes bringing sidewalks all the way to the highway. Pedestrians from nearby neighborhoods often walk along Westview Drive to get to Kroger, and the city would want to consider ways to keep them safe and help cyclists and walkers cross the highway, McGuinness said.

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