To the editor:
The City of Franklin has had a series of short-term mayors over the past several decades, none of whom has engaged in long-range planning for the city. If they had, the city would not now be struggling under a burden of traffic which, if not adequately dealt with in the near future, will eventually strangle commerce within the old city.
When Interstate 65 was opened in the early 1970s, much of the land surrounding the city was farmland, and developing a system of roads to move traffic quickly and efficiently through and around the city would have been comparatively easy and inexpensive compared to today.
Since the opening of I-65, the population of the city has grown as housing developments, factories and businesses have sprung up around the edges of the city. The traffic on I-65 in the meantime has grown enormously, to the extent that it will be only a matter of time until the third lane will have to be continued south of Greenwood.
Truck traffic in the U.S. has doubled in the last 10 years as consumerism has grown, a fact that can easily be observed by the truck traffic on I-65. According to the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials the amount of freight carried on the American highway system will increase 62 percent by 2020.
Several Midwestern states, including Indiana, are involved in a $5 million study of using truck-only lanes on Interstate 70 to deal with the increase in truck traffic. I-65, if anything, is more congested than I-70, reaching near gridlock at peak times.
The City of Franklin is involved with many redevelopment efforts and is considering a joint effort with the college to develop a sports/athletic program to attract more people to visit the city. The redevelopment efforts, while worthwhile, are short-term fixes. Updating old buildings, repairing sidewalks and roadways, replacing antique sewers, etc., while very important, are unlikely to have a major impact on the growth and development of the city, and they will do little or nothing to deal with the problem of traffic flow.
I would like to propose a longer-term project that I believe would have a major impact on both growth and development and the flow of traffic through and around the city. It is a project which would benefit not only the city of Franklin but also Edinburgh and all of Johnson County.
I encourage the city planners, in conjunction with officials in Edinburgh and the county commissioners, to begin a study for a new interchange on I-65 between Franklin and Edinburgh, with a direct connecting road from I-65 to U.S. 31. Getting approval from the state for a new interchange is a slow process, one which must be planned for and worked toward well in advance.
Spending redevelopment money now available to the city for a feasibility study would be a legitimate use of that money in light of the potential long-term benefit to Franklin. If the city is prepared with a defensible plan when updates to I-65 are in planning (e.g. a third lane, truck-only lane, and other improvements) then the chances for success would seem to be good.
This long-term project has the potential to impact the area in a major way. It would provide new sites for the growth of business and industry, open new areas to urban and residential development and, most importantly, would reduce through traffic in both Franklin and Edinburgh.
In addition, it would be of value to Camp Atterbury, a fact that might weigh heavily with the state. The only question is whether our city planners have the foresight and will to go for a project that could well outlive their administrations.
Mayor Joe McGuinness and the members of the redevelopment commission are to be lauded for their active efforts to update infrastructure and attract new business and industry to Franklin.
I urge them to look further down the road to a time when Franklin has doubled or tripled its size, a time when a bustling midsize city will hopefully be able to provide a welcoming, safe, productive and clean environment for residents, business and industry.