Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

Franklin officials have been diligently working with J.M Teague Engineering to create the town’s first comprehensive bicycle and pedestrian master plan, which was presented to the town board on Monday night. Kristy Carter with J.M Teague Engineering presented the final plan, which includes information on the data gathered, and suggestions for how to the town can move forward with making Franklin more bicycle and pedestrian friendly.

The intent of the plan was to develop a network of bicycle and pedestrian facilities and provide a blueprint for transforming Franklin into a more bicycle and pedestrian friendly community, improving connectivity with a comprehensive toolbox of facility types that are appropriate for specific corridors and intersections.

The plan Carter presented establishes priorities for facility improvements, highlights high-priority projects and those that provide unique opportunities, addresses bicycle and pedestrian safety, and provides policy recommendations to help sustain improvements in bicycle and pedestrian conditions.

According to Carter, BikeWalk Franklin builds upon existing plans, data and analysis, policy direction from various partners, significant public input, surveys, and dedicated involvement by bicycle and pedestrian advocates who continue to work with the local government and NCDOT to make sound transportation decisions that are inclusive of all modes of transportation.

The BikeWalk Plan cited Principle #4 – Create Walkable Neighborhoods in the Town of Franklin’s Principles of Growth, formed in 2006, and being an indicator of reasons to move forward with plan implementation.

“The Town of Franklin should strive to make our town a walkable community. Walkable communities are pedestrian-friendly, desirable places to live, work, learn, worship and play. They stimulate economic viability and distinctive character, as well as improve residents’ health and safety and regional air quality. The benefits of walkable communities include lower transportation costs, greater social inter-action, improved personal and environmental health, expanded consumer choices and an overall healthier way of living.” – Town of Franklin Principles of Growth (2006)

Carter’s presentation featured 22 short- and long-term projects identified through the project’s ranking system, which was developed by a steering committee. The number one recommendation includes the development of the Southwest Loop Trail, a multi-use path for both bicyclists and pedestrians on a facility separated from motor vehicles. Markings, and in some cases signs, are used to identify intersections and driveways that cross the trail, and the trail will be located on the same side of the road as any existing sidewalks or where feasible. Walk/ Don’t Walk signals would be added to signalized intersections through which the trail passes. This loop would serve many commercial, institutional, retail and residential destinations, connect them to town, and also serve a recreational function.

The project would be 3.7 miles intended to improve both the bicycling and walkability of town and is estimated to cost $4 million. The project ranked higher due to the opportunity to coordinate the program with the NCDOT’s existing plan, which includes improvements to sections along trail routes along the Georgia Road.

This Southwest Loop Trail benefits include, providing a safe travel network for bicyclists and pedestrians to access what is now limited and establish a loop ideal in length for a fitness trail. Existing sidewalks should be widened to match the new trail width – where this is not feasible, onstreet bicycle facilities should be considered.

The second highest ranked project proposed includes addressing concerns at the intersection of Palmer Street and Porter Street. The intersection needs sidewalk continued in all directions to fill in gaps and make connections. Pedestrian signals would be added to the existing traffic signal, along with crosswalks and accessible ramps. The cost of this project is anticipated to be about $125,000.

Currently, pedestrians do not have a sidewalk to stand on, crosswalks, or signalized assistance. This intersection is hazardous to anyone attempting to cross either road, so this project would enable all users and connect to existing pedestrian infra- structure.

The board took the presentation under advisement and will discuss it in more depth during the March meeting scheduled for March 6 at 7 p.m. at Town Hall.

To view the Town of Franklin’s BikeWalk Plan in its entirety, visit: www.franklinnc.com/pdf/projects/BikeWalk-Franklin-Final-20170126.pdf

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