Residents will be able to walk or ride bicycles around the east side of Franklin in the next few years.
The city is preparing to build new sidewalks and walking paths and is getting grant money to cover the costs.
During the past three months, Franklin has been approved for $4.7 million in state grants for new sidewalks, walking paths, lighting and landscaping along State Road 44 and along a truck route that will take semitrailers off downtown streets and closer to factories on the northeast side.
This week, Franklin was awarded $1.2 million to build new sidewalks from Crowell Street to Eastview Drive along State Road 44 in 2017. Those sidewalks will connect with another project, from U.S. 31 to Crowell Street in 2016, which is being funded with a $2.1 million grant the city received in November.
Only 500 feet of sidewalks exist on one side of King Street east of Forsythe Street, so walkers or cyclists will be able to head east without needing to ride in the street or walk through yards.
Franklin also will get $1.4 million to add a walking path along Eastview, Arvin and Commerce drives, which will be the city’s designated route for semitrailers traveling between U.S. 31 and Interstate 65.
Eastview Drive currently has a bike lane, but the mayor doesn’t want cyclists sharing the road with semitrailers once the city reroutes trucks away from the downtown. None of the other roads have sidewalks or bike lanes.
Once the projects are completed, the city will have completed a loop east of U.S. 31 where someone could ride a bicycle from the high school to downtown without having to ride in traffic, for example.
Franklin is working to create a citywide loop of trails and sidewalks.
The city already has planned to replace sidewalks along State Road 44 when rebuilding Jefferson and King streets starting next year. The grant money will allow the city to spend less of the $12.9 million it is receiving from the state for taking over ownership of that road.
Since that money can be used on any road or trail project, not just on State Road 44, the savings could be put toward additional roadwork in the future such as intersection widening along the city’s truck route, city engineer Travis Underhill said.
“We talked about continuing to apply. We saw an opportunity. We applied, and we’ve had some success,” Underhill said.
As part of the State Road 44 project, Franklin will replace sidewalks and add new decorative lighting, benches and landscaping similar to what already has been done on North Main Street and around the courthouse.
The grants can be used to pay for those expenses, but not for the work to tear out and replace the roadway, Underhill said.
The trail along the truck route isn’t included in those funds, and the city still is getting a cost estimate for the project, Franklin Mayor Joe McGuinness said.
City officials are determining how much it will cost for a crosswalk at U.S. 31, which could include installing timed signals and building a waiting area in the median of the highway, McGuinness said.
The city is planning about $15.6 million in projects on State Road 44 from west of U.S. 31 to Eastview Drive, but the state is only giving $12.9 million when it permanently turns over ownership of the road this year.
Franklin is using funds from the city’s tax-increment financing district to pay for design work, and those tax dollars also be would tapped to pay for any remaining construction costs.
By getting additional grants, the city won’t need as much tax money and can save more of the state money for other projects, McGuinness said.
“We’re trying to chip away at that number as much as possible. And when there is an opportunity to apply for grant funds from state or federal programs, it helps us chip that number down,” he said.