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New parking pattern coming to Franklin

New parking pattern coming to Franklin

After a successful trial run, the parking pattern on Main Street in downtown Franklin will soon be changing permanently.

Frustrations about the downtown parking pattern have been a topic of discussion among the Franklin Town Council for several years as complaints have filtered in from residents and visitors. Main Street through downtown is a two-lane, one-way road with 45-degree angled parking on both sides. 

One of the complaints has been about large trucks or SUVs using the angled parking that isn’t long enough to accommodate them. Rear-ends sticking out into the traveling lanes create a safety hazard for vehicles driving through downtown. The angled parking and large vehicles also limit visibility for pedestrians trying to cross Main Street. 

Most agreed something needed to be done, but no one could agree on how to fix it — make Main Street a two-way street, make it a one-lane and keep the angled parking, or turn it all into parallel parking. After commissioning several parking studies throughout the years, the town board decided last November to test a different parking pattern using temporary tape and see what kind of response it received. 

Beginning March 23, the town temporarily made the right-hand side of Main Street into parallel parking spots and the left-hand side was changed to 30-degree angled parking spots while a foot was added to both sides of the two one-way lanes to give drivers more space.

While the trial change was in place for 90 days, Town Planner Justin Setser said the town asked residents and visitors to complete a survey either online, over the phone or at town hall to provide feedback on the pattern. He reported to the town board last week that he received 47 surveys and 33 of them were favorable responses to the new traffic pattern. 

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Out of the positive responses, 11 respondents said they liked it and provided no other feedback while nine others suggested having parallel on both sides. A few folks still wanted to see two-way traffic and six people said the large trucks were still a safety issue on the left-hand side with angled parking spots. 

Other suggestions included no parking spots at all downtown, more green space and landscaping, one lane of traffic and the need for a parking garage somewhere in town. 

Those who didn’t like the new parking pattern said the change was too significant a decrease in the number of spots and the wider lanes would lead to more problems with speeding. Two other respondents said the parking pattern nearly caused them to get into an accident. 

Setser said he checked with the police chief who said there weren’t any reported collisions or fender benders downtown during the trial period. 

If the town can finalize a plan soon, Town Engineer Nathanael Moore said work could begin on making the permanent changes to Main Street in the fall with work finishing next spring. The town will also have to get final approval of the plan through the North Carolina Department of Transportation since Main Street is a state-maintained road. 

Councilmember Brandon McMahan asked if the plan would include bulb-outs since those would allow for more landscaping and shrubs. 

Moore said bulb outs are a possibility in certain places depending on the final design. Bulb outs are curb extensions that can include landscaping and are commonly used as a traffic-calming measure. They can also extend a sidewalk, giving pedestrians a shorter crossing distance and create better visibility for drivers. 

Mayor Bob Scott asked councilmembers about the feedback they heard on the new parking pattern and if they wanted to move forward with it. All councilmembers said they had heard positive comments from a majority of people. 

Councilmember David Culpepper said he would prefer a design with parallel parking spaces on both sides of Main Street because it would be better suited for more bulb outs and would make it safer for pedestrians and drivers. 

While he would also like to see both sides of the street uniform, Councilmember Joe Collins said it isn’t what the residents have been asked to assess over the last three months.

“I think it would be too much of a shock right now as much as I’m for it in the long term,” he said. “As we sell the bulb out approach, we may get buy in but it could be deceptive since we were just talking about one side being parallel.”

McMahan agreed that he wants parallel on both sides but didn’t think it would be fair to change the plan without any warning for residents. 

Moore said having parallel on both sides of a one-way street with two lanes could also be a safety issue.

Town Manager Summer Woodard said there was a sense of urgency to move forward with finalizing the plan so that the town could be eligible to receive some DOT funding that would cover a majority of the project cost while the town will have to share some of the costs for crosswalk design.

The board unanimously approved proceeding with a permanent plan to keep the parallel parking on the right side of Main Street all the way down to Macon Avenue. 

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