If you’re in a wheelchair, pushing a stroller or riding your bicycle along new sidewalks in Franklin, tuck in your elbows and watch out for street signs.
New, wider sidewalks were built as part of a project to reconstruct North Main Street, just north of downtown Franklin. But take a stroll and you’ll soon find several no-parking signs sticking up in the center of the brand new concrete paths.
“It just doesn’t make sense for anyone in a wheelchair, on a bicycle or pushing a stroller or other means of travel, especially skates and skateboards,” Franklin attorney John Emry said. “It just seems to be an unnecessary obstacle where they are placed.”
State and federal rules require no-parking signs to be located 2 feet from the edge of the street, Franklin city engineer Travis Underhill said. In most residential areas, those road signs are planted in a grassy area between the edge of the pavement and the sidewalk.
At a glance
Sidewalk signs: Several street signs along North Main Street in Franklin are located in the middle of the sidewalks. The city placed the signs there to meet a state requirement to be 2 feet away from the curb. The sidewalks are still wide enough to meet federal disability requirements to have at least 3 feet of space for wheelchairs to pass.
No room: The city could have purchased additional land to create a grassy buffer area between the road and sidewalk and put signs there. But because the additional land would have cost more and homes in the area are already close to the sidewalk, city officials decided to select the current design.
Future work: CrossRoad Engineers is designing the second half of the project, between U.S. 31 and Graham Street, and a similar situation could occur there. However, several areas already have a grassy buffer between the curb and sidewalk where signs could be placed, so the city won’t need to purchase additional land for the sidewalks.
But along North Main Street, many homes are located so close to the sidewalk that city officials didn’t want to buy more land from homeowners and make their yards smaller in order to create that roadside buffer area, Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
Buying additional land also would have increased the cost of the project. A federal grant paid for 80 percent of the $3.3 million reconstruction project, but land purchases are not included in that amount, and the city pays full price for property needed for the project.
Instead, the city decided to place the signs in the sidewalk, leaving the required 2 feet between the signs and the street, and another 3 feet between the sidewalks and residents’ yards, meeting the requirements in the Americans with Disabilities Act.
City officials and project engineers decided on the current design as the best option, based on the amount of available space between the street and homes, McGuinness said.
“Is it the most ideal situation? Probably not. Where we can, we’d like to move the walk away from the curb and have that green space in between them,” CrossRoad Engineers vice president Trent Newport said.
Pedestrians likely won’t see no-parking signs in the sidewalk along the second leg of the North Main Street project from Graham Street to U.S. 31, Newport said. That stretch of Main Street already has grassy areas between the streets and sidewalks in most areas, and yards are larger, which will allow the city to purchase more land if needed without taking much of a homeowner’s yard.
Emry, who sometimes handles American with Disabilities Act cases in court, noticed the signs and wondered whether the posts would make it more difficult for people with physical disabilities to use the sidewalks, despite the increased width.
Pedestrians walking down the street and texting on a cellphone will need to pay more attention to avoid walking into a sign post, McGuinness said.
The city does own additional land next to the sidewalk for decorative street lights. But buying more land and pushing sidewalks closer to the nearby homes wouldn’t have been the best option for homeowners, McGuinness said. The closest homes have front doors about 25 feet from the sidewalk.
Since the project was funded with a federal grant through the Indiana Department of Transportation, the city had to follow state road guidelines. While stop, speed limit and street name signs can be placed in the grass next to the sidewalk, the no-parking signs are required to be closer to the street.
“If you’re doing a federal aid project and INDOT comes in to do the final inspection, they could pull your funding if you don’t adhere to it. So you always make sure your t’s are crossed,” McGuinness said.
Parking spaces along the street are 22 feet long under state code in order to allow oversized vehicles to park there, but most passenger cars and trucks are much shorter, McGuinness said. The city likely lost a couple of parking spaces because of that size requirement, he said.
In the future, the city could remove the signs and place them closer to the curb or the far side of the sidewalk, McGuinness said. But the mayor said it wouldn’t be a good use of tax money.
“It’s certainly possible you remove the sign and repour the concrete. Is it something I want to waste money on and time? No,” McGuinness said.