hen the owner of a bed-and-breakfast in Franklin looks out a window after the sun goes down, it still looks like daylight on North Main Street.
Sharon Isselhardt has jokingly told guests trying to find The Flying Frog at night to look for the airplane runway near downtown.
Put simply, North Main Street is very bright now. And that’s with only about 75 percent of the streetlights installed.
Franklin is rebuilding North Main Street from Jefferson Street to U.S. 31 by reconstructing the roadway, replacing sidewalks and adding new decorative concrete and lighting. The first phase, from Jefferson Street to Graham Street, was finished in August. Construction crews are expected to start the second phase to U.S. 31 in March.
The black metal light poles installed in the first phase were selected to give the street a historic look while making the area brighter and safer for residents, pedestrians and drivers, city officials said. But the 20-foot-tall streetlights are pouring light onto the recently rebuilt street near downtown, and now city officials are considering whether they need to find dimmer LED bulbs or install plastic shields to block some of the light shining toward homes.
City engineer Travis Underhill plans to contact the light manufacturer to see what options are available.
Residents who live between King and Graham streets and farther north on Main Street, city employees and city board members all have commented on how bright the street is once the sun goes down.
Some residents have raised concerns about how much light comes through their bedrooms windows, Underhill said. But others have noted that the street looks pretty when fully lit and that the brightness is an improvement from how dim the area used to be after dark. Comments have been split about evenly between support and concerns, he said.
“They look nice when you’re driving down there, but I don’t live there,” Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
The city had discussed removing some of the poles that are already up and alternating the taller posts on each side of the street. The gaps would be filled with four-foot-tall lights that would cast a smaller amount of light on the sidewalks. The city could save about $1,500 per light to buy and install the shorter poles in the remaining 11 spaces, Underhill said. But board of works members were concerned that putting in the shorter lights would change the look of the street.
The city also can’t remove light fixtures because the lights were wired in a series. If one is removed, an entire section will go out, similar to Christmas lights, Underhill said. If the city wanted to remove fixtures, construction crews would need to dig up yards, and an electrician would have to rewire the area, which would cost the city more.
The city now has 48 lights between Jefferson and Graham streets, which is significantly more than what used to line that section of the street. About 15 lights atop wooden poles used to light primarily intersections, Underhill said. Now, some of the light fixtures are less than 50 feet apart, compared with about 300 feet from intersection to intersection.
Engineers have planned to space out the lighting on the second phase of North Main Street, from Graham Street to U.S. 31, so the city shouldn’t have an issue with that area being too bright, CrossRoad Engineers vice president Trent Newport said. That section of road is twice as long and will have 71 streetlights, according to current designs.
The city has to order and install 11 more lights on the street to complete the first phase, so officials are trying to find a way to scale back the brightness before placing that last order, Underhill said.
Deanna Bryant originally was concerned about how close the new light was to the front of her house on North Main Street. But since they’ve been switched on, she thinks the lights are a major improvement. The street used to be so dark that she couldn’t see people on the sidewalk, she said.
The lights not only look good but have made the neighborhood safer, she said.
“They should have been here a long time ago,” she said.
The rest of the neighborhood isn’t well-lit, Isselhardt said. When she looks out of the front windows of The Flying Frog the street looks like daylight, while the back is as dark as midnight, she said.
The new lights aren’t bothering Isselhardt or guests at the bed-and-breakfast because the windows of the guestrooms don’t face the street, she said. She wants the city to finish the road with the same light poles to keep a uniform, historic look.
Franklin is considering options to reduce the brightness of new streetlights on North Main Street. The city has received comments from residents and passers-by about how bright the street is at night and are now trying to find dimmer bulbs or plastic shields that can reduce some of the light.
Number of light fixtures on North Main Street between Jefferson and Graham streets
Light poles yet to be installed
Height of light poles
Homes and apartments between King Street and Graham Street
Average space between streetlights
Total amount budgeted for streetlights
Streetlights planned for phase 2 between Graham Street and U.S. 31
Average space between lights in phase 2 area