Semi-truck drivers had seemed to get the message: if you drive through downtown Franklin, ignoring the truck route with no business downtown, you are going to get stopped by police. The year-long crusade by Mayor Steve Barnett had started to result in fewer semis driving downtown, which meant less damage to curbs, streets, light poles and trees. It also meant fewer complaints from residents and business owners in what’s become a pedestrian-friendly and shopping-focused downtown. Then came the next season of roadwork, road closures and detours. And here came the semis. A resident called police March 14 to report that four semi trucks had driven through the Paris Estates neighborhood to get to Upper Shelbyville Road. Barnett headed to the area, and saw more semis driving through. Police increased patrols to put a stop to it. The next day, a semi knocked down a large tree in the yard of a home at Crowell and Monroe streets. Both neighborhoods are being affected by increased traffic due to roadwork nearby.
In downtown, Jefferson Street, from the railroad crossing to Branigin Boulevard, is closed. Traffic is using Monroe Street instead. On the east side, King Street is closed from Middleton Drive to Eastview Drive, and traffic heading downtown is using Jefferson Street, which cuts through the Jefferson Meadows residential area just south of King Street. Trucks heading to U.S. 31 or the industrial area of the city can still take the truck route by turning north onto Eastview Drive. But instead some trucks were cutting through Paris Estates to get back to King Street and get on the interstate, or reach the industrial areas. City officials planned for extra traffic on neighborhood streets when the main roads were closed for reconstruction. But semis are expected to follow the truck route and stay off of neighborhood streets unless making a delivery downtown. Barnett and city leaders are adding even more signs across the city so that truck drivers know, no matter their route or what their GPS system says, that they aren’t to come downtown or enter neighborhoods. Police officers have been told to no longer simply warn truck drivers. Instead, they are to issue $250 tickets in all cases.
“The warning season is over,” Barnett said. Signs are being added along U.S. 31 at all streets that lead to downtown, and signs going up on Interstate 65 will warn truck drivers before they even exit. Signs are being added to Paris Estates’ entrances and Barnett has wondered, although not taken any action, if a $250 ticket is enough of a deterrent. He called the truck driver who knocked down the tree, then tallied the damage from the lost tree and the clean-up, including time worked by city employees, and sent the company a bill for $5,671. Barnett said he knows that semis being able to make deliveries and pick up products from Franklin is essential, but the city has carved out routes and wants drivers to use them and stay out of downtown and off residential streets. The signs and flashing arrow directing trucks to Eastview isn’t the only action the city has taken. Work will start soon to redo the parking area behind the McDonald’s on King Street to create car and bus parking and a picnic area, and get rid of the lot that’s become an impromptu truck stop. Police officers remove semis that park at the old Red Carpet Inn area or park for the night along roads leading to industrial parks and they routinely stop trucks they see downtown.
“The word is out about Franklin,”