A nine-phase reconstruction project set to begin in August is a project that city engineer Travis Underhill says will make Franklin more attractive and inviting.
Reconstruction plans of Franklin’s downtown streets began more than three years ago with the renovation of North Main Street and West Jefferson Street.
Since then, the city has received more than $13 million to complete the projects through state and federal funding, grants and city dollars.
“It’s multiple projects, not just one,” Underhill said. “Everything that is in place today comes out and will be replaced.”
Underhill said everything on the city’s to-do list will be 100 percent new upon completion – including storm pipes, water mains, roadways, sidewalks and a few decorative features.
Freshman commuter Mohanid Akermawi is a resident of Franklin Lakes subdivision about five minutes from the campus.
Although he said Jefferson Street is not a part of his daily commute, he frequently uses the road.
“This will definitely help the town,” Akermawi said. “People want to live somewhere comfortable, safe and well-renovated or more modern. It may be very tedious and annoying going through construction all the time, but it is a very good thing for this city.”
Because the largest impact on the college will be on commuters and professors who use the Franklin roads frequently, Underhill said the city will do its best to make the construction as clear as possible.
But he asks that – despite frustration – the Franklin community is patient and cooperative with the signage and construction.
“One great thing about Franklin and the college is, in recent history, we’ve worked very hard to work well together,” Underhill said. “The size of the school makes it easy to actually get a message to 1,000 kids as opposed to 10,000 kids. A lot of the kids at Franklin seem to really enjoy the community, but when all is said and done, I think this is a huge step at Franklin College – no different than the impact to the city.”
When Counseling Center Director John Shafer moved to Franklin 33 years ago, he said he immediately fell in love with the small town.
As a routine bicycle commuter, Shafer said he rides from his home on Walnut Street to Main Street, to Home Avenue, then crosses over Jefferson Street to Monroe Street, which leads him straight to the college.
Shafer called it a matter of “short-term inconveniences” that will eventually lead to a “long-term advantage.”
Nevertheless, Shafer said he is excited for the redevelopment of city streets.
“For the good of the city and making Franklin a more beautiful place, we can all be patient with waiting and taking an alternative route,” Shafer said. “It’s so easy in Franklin just to go two blocks around, so personally as a resident, I’m happy to do that for a more attractive look.”
Similarly, Casey Hayes, head of the music department, said he is also excited, but more so for a separate road construction project, which began April 4.
Hayes, who lives at the intersection of King Street and Forsythe Street, will be losing nearly 12 feet of his property to a new five-foot-wide sidewalk, an addition Hayes said he has hounded the city for since 2009.
After much contemplation and discussion with the city, Hayes said he and his neighbors negotiated with the city to preserve as much yard as possible by eliminating the plans of an additional bicycle path.
“They’re doing very good things,” Hayes said. “I have no problems at all sacrificing part of my yard to make it safe. I don’t mind paying more on my taxes to know that it makes the city more functional and more attractive to businesses and to residents.”
The first phase of Jefferson Street construction is scheduled to take place from August 2016 to December 2016 on Jefferson Street, stretching from North Main Street to the Admiral Gas Station.
For more information on the project, visit the City of Franklin’s website at franklin.in.gov.