Brittney Burns – Staff Writer
After months of work and research, the Franklin Board of Aldermen officially adopted the comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian BikeWalk Plan Monday night. The BikeWalk Plan is a master plan developed in partnership with J.M. Teague Engineering & Planning and the citizens of Franklin to make the town more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.
“The BikeWalk Plan is a great plan developed from a lot of hard work with an enthusiastic steering committee,” said Franklin Town Planner Justin Setser. “Everything in this plan is from projects and ideas that have come from the citizens of Franklin and Macon County.”
The master plan identifies 22 projects throughout the town ranging in cost from a 225-foot bridge being placed on Wells Grove Road crossing over the Little Tennessee River at a cost of $8,000 to a $4 million project to construct a 3.7 mile Southwest Loop multi-use path for both bicyclists and pedestrians separated from motor vehicles around Franklin.
To complete all top 22 projects identified in the master plan, it would cost the town more than $12 million, but while the plan was adopted on Monday, the town isn’t obligated to do all of the projects, or any of them for that matter.
“This plan can be used as a tool for the Town of Franklin for potential partnership opportunities,” said Town Manager Summer Woodard. “It’s a wide range plan, which is what we needed, but there are also different partnerships, such as with the NCDOT and Macon County, that can be involved. The plan is a great way to start partnerships to help with some of the funding, so it is not the sole burden of the town to fund the plan.”
Setser noted that while the master plan includes multiple projects, it could be completed over many years utilizing local funds as well as potential grant and state funds. The master plan includes smaller projects the town could feasibly complete on their own, projects that would involve coordinating efforts with the county, as well as large scale projects involving NCDOT plans.
Setser said the next step for the town will be to submit some of the projects from the plan in June to the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) for consideration in the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP) which every two years prioritizes transportation projects in the state. Any projects approved for the STIP program from an adopted bike and pedestrian plan such as the town’s BikeWalk Plan would require a 20 percent match from the town, so budgeting for future projects is something Setser informed the town they would need to do.
The plan was developed by gathering public input from surveys, public sessions and other gatherings as well as utilizing existing data and analysis. All recommended projects for the BikeWalk Plan from the public were put into a ranking system. The 174-page master plan showcases the 22 projects that were ranked by the engineering company working closely with the steering committee, but includes information on all 45 projects that were identified through the process.
The complete final draft of the Franklin Bike and Walk Plan can be viewed on the Town’s website under the “For Residents” and “Current Project” tabs or by visiting www.franklinnc.com/pdf/projects/BikeWalk-Franklin-Final-20170126.pdf.