Brittney Burns – Staff Writer

The town of Franklin has diligently worked to solicit public input for a downtown improvement project that includes renovations to sidewalks, a pedestrian and bicycle plan and other ways to improve the downtown area. Through public workshops, community  bike rides and walkabouts, and online surveys, the town of Franklin Planning Department has been open to ideas from the community on how to best shape the Bike Walk Plan for Franklin.

Continuing that mission, the town of Franklin will be hosting an open house on Tuesday, July 12, from 5:30 to 7 p.m., to allow the community to rank projects and help determine what is next for Franklin.

“The attendees will be able to see the projects that were suggested through the wikimap page and surveys that were conducted online,” said Town Planner Justin Setser. “Those projects have been ranked by a criteria that the consultant team and steering committee came up with. That criteria will be able to be viewed as well. There will be more info on education, encroachment, enforcement, health and evaluation. Plus other enhancements that the attendees will be able to vote on.”

Through online surveys and and community input, 40 projects have been identified by the town from sidewalks, bike lanes, multiuse trails, safety treatments and greenways. During the open house, community members will be able to learn about each project and talk directly with steering committee members, town staff, and project consultants. The drop-in style event will be held at Tartan Hall at the FIrst Presbyterian Church.

“Votes from the public matter because this is their plan and we at the Town need to know what they think is important,” said Setser. “They will be able to vote on what type of enhancements they think are more important that Franklin needs. Some examples are wayfinding signs, crosswalk visibility, bicycle parking, paved treatments plus others.”

After gathering the information from next Tuesday’s Open House, the consultant team will take the comments and votes from the attendees and make any changes that need to be made. “Then the consultant team will bring those changes to our steering committee for them to look over and make any more suggestions,” said Setser. “We always want to get the public involved because in the long run these projects are for the public and the betterment of their everyday lives. So we need to know if these projects are what they want and need.”

The Open House is the next step in the Town of Franklin’s process of developing a bicycle and pedestrian plan to make bicycling and walking safer and more convenient for residents and visitors of all ages and abilities. The plan will be used to guide future investments in on- and off-road bicycling and pedestrian facilities and support programs that encourage alternative transportation options. This planning initiative is supported by a grant from the NC Department of Transportation, and a matching contribution from the Town of Franklin.

“I hope we have a good turnout that can be documented,” said Setser. “Because if we have a good turnout that will show the board of aldermen or any other state official that the residents of Franklin are behind this plan. This next open house is a drop-in style open house. You can come for 10 minutes and give us a quick comment or stay for an hour.”