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Franklin still navigating costs

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Franklin will have to buy and knock down a former convenience store to make way for the city’s first roundabout, but officials aren’t sure whether they will have to spend more tax dollars to do it.

The city plans to build a roundabout at the oddly shaped intersection of Main, Walnut and Clark streets and Oliver Avenue to improve traffic flow in the area. The roundabout would solve problems motorists have reported with seeing other vehicles because the roads intersect at diagonals and would reduce wait times at the stoplight for 12,000 drivers who use North Main Street daily.

The city is starting the process to get the roundabout approved, but officials are not yet sure whether it will cost more.

The construction cost for the North Main Street project is $4.4 million, and 80 percent is being paid for with money from a federal grant. The Franklin Redevelopment Commission is paying the rest, which is about $880,000.


But the city can’t use the federal grant to buy property needed for the project, including the former Village Pantry site, which closed this year. That means the city will have to pay to buy the store site and other pieces of property needed for the roundabout, as well as 20 percent of the costs to demolish the store.

The city would have had to buy part of the parking lot to reconstruct the intersection and make minor improvements, which was what was included in the city’s original plan. Now the city will have to buy the entire property in order to make room for a roundabout, Crossroads Engineers vice president Trent Newport said.

The redevelopment commission has set aside $520,000 to pay for engineering and buying land, but it’s unclear whether that amount will be enough to buy the former convenience store property.

Neither Newport, city engineer Travis Underhill nor Mayor Joe McGuinness had an estimate for how much the Village Pantry site will cost. The assessed value of the property, which is what the county uses to calculate tax bills, is $150,000. The city will have to get two appraisals on the property and can’t pay more than the average of those two.

Engineers and city officials will negotiate with the owner to purchase the building. But first, the city must get public comments from residents, which is required because the project design changed when the roundabout was added, Newport said.

McGuinness thinks a roundabout would benefit drivers and make the intersection safer but wants to hear what residents think of the project.

“I do believe that is a troubled intersection. It’s a difficult intersection to navigate with a vehicle and the multiple streets that go into it,” he said.

A roundabout would help keep all drivers moving instead of having them sit through long waits at the stoplight and could reduce accidents, Newport said.

“This intersection is kind of confusing. There may not be a lot of traffic on those legs, but they sit there, and there is a long wait because of those five legs,” he said.

Road construction costs are expected to be similar whether the city puts in a roundabout or keeps the same the intersection design, Newport said.

Construction crews will have to demolish the former convenience store, and 80 percent of those demolition costs can be included in the federal grant. The project also would include building a central island for traffic to drive around. But the city won’t have to pay to install a new stoplight or do as much paving with a roundabout, which makes the price similar, Newport said.

“The difference between the roundabout and doing something else is very minimal,” he said.

City residents will have opportunities to talk about the roundabout during an upcoming public comment period and information meeting.

A copy of the current construction plans will be available at city hall, 70 E. Monroe St. for a 15-day public comment period ending June 15. The city also will have a public information meeting to discuss the roundabout in June or early July. A date for that meeting has not yet been set, Newport said.

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