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Putting on the brakes: City steps up enforcement of truck ban

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If a planned crackdown works, drivers will have fewer semis to squeeze past on downtown Franklin streets, and pedestrians won’t hear as many rumbling past shops.

New signs marking the city’s truck route have been up for about a month, and the police chief has told officers to enforce the city’s no-truck rules, Franklin Police Department Lt. Kerry Atwood said.

Those rules ban trucks weighing more than 5,000 pounds from using downtown streets, including Jefferson and North Main streets, unless they’re from a local business or making a delivery.

That means officers will stop semis when they see them downtown and asking the drivers where they’re headed. If the answer is to a store or factory on U.S. 31 or somewhere outside Franklin, they could get a $250 ticket.

Instead, semi drivers are supposed to use Eastview, Arvin and Commerce drives to get from the King Street exit of Interstate 65 to U.S. 31.

Franklin has been making an effort to get trucks out of the downtown after the city took ownership of part of State Road 44 from the state this spring.

Since it’s no longer a state road in much of the community, the city can bar truck traffic.

Heavy trucks are one reason that the road between U.S. 31 and downtown and around Forsythe Street has potholes and lumpy pavement, city officials said. Franklin plans to rebuild the road over the next four years, and having fewer trucks on it will keep the road from deteriorating as quickly.

Now the city needs to continue sending the message not only to drivers but also to companies that still route trucks downtown, Mayor Joe McGuinness said. As police stopped trucks to give warnings about using the truck route, officers found out that the trucking companies or GPS units still had King and Jefferson streets identified as State Road 44.

“We’re having to go through the cycle of letting some of these mapping companies and trucking companies, letting them know this is no longer a state road,” McGuinness said.

The city put up signs on King Street pointing trucks toward Eastview Drive, while the state helped by hanging new signs on U.S. 31 pointing trucks to Commerce Drive, McGuinness said. The city also has received help from the Indiana Department of Transportation to spread the word to trucking companies about the change, he said. The truck route doesn’t add notable travel time for semis that are heading to stores on U.S. 31 such as Walmart or Lowe’s, he said.

Once drivers know to go around the downtown instead of through it, he doesn’t anticipate many truckers would want to keep going down the downtown streets.

“I wouldn’t want to try to make those two tight turns at Forsythe Street with a 60-foot trailer,” McGuinness said.

Officers can easily enforce the rule because outside of large beer or soda trucks, most semitrailer trucks aren’t making deliveries to downtown businesses, Atwood said. Smaller trucks that might exceed the weight limit, such as box trucks that might be making a food delivery to a restaurant, aren’t as much of a concern as a multi-axle trailer because they’re not as wide or heavy, Atwood said.

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