City staff hears neighbors’ concerns about Franklin Road improvements, won’t delay construction


City staff hears neighbors’ concerns about Franklin Road improvements, won’t delay construction

PHOTO: Franklin Road is seen from Battle Ground Academy’s Lower School on Thursday, October 11, 2018. / Brooke Wanser

By BROOKE WANSER

The long-planned Franklin Road improvements just north of downtown are moving forward, but some neighbors are urging caution with utility placement, lane width, and tree removal.

At Tuesday’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen work session, city engineer Paul Holzen gave an update on the project’s length and details, and addressed resident concerns.

A planned $14 million city project will widen the road from the bridge across the Harpeth River north to Harpeth Industrial Court.

The project initially began in 2005, when the city first designed the road improvements, but the economic crisis of 2008 caused a hold on the plans.

Excitement for the improvements is mainly aimed at the planned sidewalks, which will connect Harlinsdale Farm and the Factory to downtown Franklin.

In 2017, there were 45 crashes along the corridor, which Holzen said would be improved by widening the lanes to 12 feet wide, with a 14 foot outside lane to accommodate bicyclists.

Project Schedule

Preliminary design: January 2015 – February 2018

Easement acquisition: Spring 2018 – Spring 2019

  • 33 tracts
  • 14 offers
  • 8 agreements of sale

Final design: April 2018 – Spring 2019

  • Minor utility revisions
  • Landscaping update
  • TDOT coordination with Franklin Road bridge permits

Construction phase: Bidding –  Summer 2019; Construction – late Summer 2019

  • 18 – 24 months construction

At the last Board of Mayor and Aldermen meeting, a few residents voiced concerns about the removal of 32 old trees from the project area.

On Tuesday, Holzen showed slides of about a dozen-and-a-half trees marked in orange which he said “might” be saved by a redesign.

But Holzen said he wouldn’t recommend a redesign, due to the “substantial” cost and addition of nearly a year to the project’s length. “You’re basically starting from scratch,” he said.

In a letter submitted by two homeowners in the affected area from the bridge at to Harpeth Industrial Court, one area of concern out of five listed was the “overall look and feel.”

Another desire was eliminating a planned turn lane between Old Liberty Pike and Liberty Pike.

DJ Davis, who lives at 219 Franklin Road, said 60 percent of the 33 neighbors directly affected by the construction had signed a petition agreeing to the five points of concern, and asked for a meeting with city staff.

Paul Lebovitz, who lives at the corner of Liberty Pike and Franklin Road, said he spoke in representation of his Myles Manor neighborhood.

“There’s no doubt the Franklin Road streetscape is large and important,” he began, noting the shift the neighborhood had experienced since he moved there 38 years ago and the recent emphasis on historic preservation.

“We’re the gateway, I found out, to Franklin, and the city reiterates that, too,” he said. “We are the welcome mat for everything that you get into downtown.”

Lebovitz said the project was the biggest of its kind in a historic district since the 1990s Streetscape revitalization along Main Street.

Rather than postponing the project, he said the neighbors are more concerned with long term success.

Underground utilities, mature tree safety efforts, less light pollution, and removal of the center turn lane were the requests Lebovitz made.

“We realize this is a short review, but perhaps we can sit with the engineering staff to see if they might be incorporated into the final design,” he said, noting the dozen residents who attended the meeting.

Aldermen were willing to consider some of the changes, but not at the expense of a time delay.

With project bidding set for next spring or summer, City Administrator Eric Stuckey said the board needed to “differentiate what may be smaller adjustments and what might be more significant redesign components,” especially with easement acquisition and planning already occurring.

“I would certainly urge you to go forward with this,” said Ward 4 Alderman Margaret Martin, whose district the project is in. “And if there are things that would not prolong the development of it, and you can work it out, fine. I don’t want to see anything that’s going to prolong this one hour. It needs to go on.”

The discussion begins around 57:00 in the City of Franklin livestream below.

About The Author

Brooke Wanser is the associate editor for the Franklin Home Page, and can be reached at brooke.wanser@homepagemediagroup.com. Follow her on Twitter at @BWanser_writes or @FranklinHomepg.

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