Filing the gap: How Franklin is building up its sidewalk network
The top five road projects in Williamson County from Gov. Bill Haslam's IMPROVE Act. Wochit
While training for ultramarathons, Liz McClain will weave her way around Franklin, using both sidewalks and roads. She has also trained other athletes for races over the last 15 years.
"I remember when I started I would be nervous to run on roads against traffic," McClain said. "I do it all the time now so I am not as unnerved by it. But my husband will only stay on the sidewalk. He runs every day, and he’s nervous without a sidewalk. He doesn’t want to get on the street next to a car. It doesn’t feel comfortable for him and a lot of other runners I know."
Franklin runners who stick to the sidewalk have some new route options. Crews will finish up a new sidewalk extension from Ralston Lane to Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway on Highway 96 East. And for the last two years, the city has quietly placed seven new sidewalk segments, with two more on the schedule to be completed by 2019.
In 2016, the city began allotting $250,000 per year to sidewalk construction for a period of five years. By 2022, Franklin leaders will have invested $1.2 million in improving the sidewalk network.
"It’s designed to pick off fairly small projects," City Administrator Eric Stuckey said. "It’s been important work, and it has great impact to connect neighborhoods. We have seen a positive impact the last two years, and we look forward to seeing what we can do in the next three."
In late May, Stuckey said he and other leaders were starting to discuss the potential of a new sidewalk in the Willow Springs neighborhood.
Stuckey said neighbors have expressed a desire for connection to the Williamson County Soccer Outdoor Complex.
"We have conversations like these every two weeks with our staff about capital improvements," Stuckey said. "The details of that new sidewalk are just in the stages of being hammered out."
The dedicated funding has already allowed crews to install sidewalk connections for two large gaps in the network this year.
Street department members recently upgraded an existing sidewalk along South Royal Oaks Boulevard . The system now connects the Creekstone and Forrest Crossing neighborhoods to the future Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway multi-use trail.
Columbia State Community College students also got a sidewalk extension from the campus property line to Turning Wheel Lane.
Filing the gap
Stuckey said city residents want more walkable areas as Franklin grows.
The 2018 Williamson Outlook trends report — produced by Williamson, Inc. — shows economic growth is spurred when residents can find ways to better their health. Currently, Williamson County is ranked as the healthiest in Tennessee, according to the 2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation health survey.
Franklin Tomorrow executive director Mindy Tate surveyed residents in 2017 about what they wanted to see in the sidewalk network. The nonprofit got 200 responses.
"People see how easy it could be if the proper installations were made of sidewalks or multi-use trails," Tate said. "They want to be out and enjoy our community, so I think they are looking for ways to walk, and it has to be safe."
Tate and her nonprofit provided those responses to the city, and she thinks they helped Franklin engineers identify gaps in the network.
"I think it had some impact on furthering the realization that small projects make a big difference," Tate said. "We are seeing more people wanting to get around Franklin on foot."
Bigger sidewalk initiatives will soon start in Franklin.
Crews will finish the Highway 96 East sidewalk this summer, while starting on an additional segment on Highway 96 West from Freedom Middle School to downtown Franklin.
Engineers have also started work on a $14 million streetscape plan, which will provide a long awaited connection on Franklin Road. A new sidewalk would extend from the Park at Harlinsdale Farm to First Avenue.
With Phase II of Hillsboro Road improvements complete, the city will connect that new sidewalk during the northwest extension project on Mack Hatcher Memorial Parkway.
Projects the city finished from 2016-2017:
- Both sides of South Royal Oaks Boulevard from Creekstone to Forrest Crossing neighborhoods
- From South Royal Oaks Boulevard to Stonegate Drive
- Del Rio Pike at Rizer Point neighborhood
- Downs Boulevard at Storage Building
- Highway 96 at Reid Hills to Spencer Hall neighborhoods
- Oak Meadow Drive from Rand Drive to Southwinds Apartments
- Liberty Pike from Columbia State Community College campus to Turning Wheel Lane
Projects slated for completion by 2019:
- Franklin Green neighborhood crossing at Horton Lane
- Willow Springs neighborhood to Horton Lane
Reach Emily West at firstname.lastname@example.org; at 615-613-1380; or on Twitter at @emwest22.