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Lessons learned: City warns of road work

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About a year before work starts on a major Franklin street, residents are concerned about whether they’ll be able to get to downtown businesses and whether the city will be taking part of their front yards.

Construction on the first phase of rebuilding Jefferson Street, west of U.S. 31, isn’t scheduled to start until next summer, but city officials are addressing questions and concerns early.

After multiple reconstruction projects, such as North Main Street and East and West Court streets, engineers were ready to handle the common questions about access to homes and businesses, removing trees and how long sections of the road will be shut down.

City officials and engineers shared the early plans for the more than $10 million, 1.8-mile project, which will rebuild the road, replace or add sidewalks, and install new lighting from the county fairgrounds to Eastview Drive. The project is being paid for with state money that was given to Franklin when the city took over ownership of State Road 44.

The plans aren’t far enough along yet to tell people exactly which trees will need to be removed, how many blocks of road will be closed at a time and when. But the city wanted to share preliminary drawings showing sidewalk placements, parking spaces and some details about decorative monuments and the style of light poles.

Construction is scheduled to begin on the area west of U.S. 31 in late summer next year. The area between U.S. 31 and Crowell Street likely will start in 2016 and stretch into 2017. Work from Crowell Street to Eastview Drive would then begin after that phase.

Before each phase, the city will have an informational meeting, with more detailed plans that include closure times, parking space locations and tree placement. A total of 161 trees are located in the project area, and most will need to be removed because of underground utilities and space, CrossRoad Engineers vice president Trent Newport said. Workers will replace most of those trees and likely plant more after construction, Newport said.

Engineers will meet with homeowners before construction and identify which trees will need to be removed well before the first is cut down.

Street closures have been a main concern.

Anita Ward frequently shops downtown and also has a friend who runs a business. After seeing how previous construction projects affected downtown shops, she wanted to get information now.

“People on Jefferson Street were very badly hurt by East and West Court,” Ward said. “I’m hoping small, downtown businesses will get together so they’re better prepared.”

The city will break the project into small sections, likely two to four blocks at a time, but Newport couldn’t say exactly how long those sections will be closed yet.

“We’re going to try to cut it down into manageable sections,” Newport said.

The work is meant to replace what is there, Newport said. For example, if residents have a small retaining wall or shrub line on the back side of the sidewalk, that should be able to stay because workers will tear out and replace only the existing sidewalk, he said.

Resident Jim Curry was concerned that the city would need some of his land near the corner of King and Forsythe streets to better connect the section of Jefferson Street that heads into downtown and King Street to goes out to Interstate 65. But he said he was disappointed to see that the project couldn’t do anything to reduce the amount of traffic going through his neighborhood.

“The whole corridor there from Forsythe east on King, that’s all residential. It’s noise, pollution. It’s constant,” he said.

A new roundabout at Eastview Drive should help with truck traffic, Newport said. The city has set up a truck route that diverts semis away from downtown, and the roundabout will help make it clear that trucks are supposed to head north on Eastview instead of driving through downtown.

The Forsythe Street intersections at Jefferson and King streets won’t be changed, so drivers will still go through two four-way stops in the area, Newport said. The new sidewalks are going to be similarly sized too, so the city won’t be buying any additional pieces of people’s yards, Newport said.

Residents also asked about potholes on that section of road. The potholes are being fixed this month, possibly as soon as next week, city engineer Travis Underhill said.

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