Franklin council, school board consider proposed roundabout at park, new high school entrance

Student safety was the overarching theme during a recent discussion concerning traffic around the new Franklin High School that is currently being designed.

Calling it “a once in a lifetime decision,” members of Franklin City Council and the Franklin Board of Education discussed the pros and cons between a planned four-way signalized intersection and a roundabout. The discussion also included some other ideas such as tunnel under Ohio 123/East Sixth Street or a bridge to connect the new high school with the entrance to Franklin Community Park where the district’s athletic facilities are located.

The city previously planned for and received state grant funding to construct the four-way signalized intersection, according to City Manager Jonathan Westendorf. However, the city identified some challenges with that idea and is considering a roundabout, he said.

Westendorf said city consultant, CT Consultants, suggested a roundabout would be 40% more safer than a four-way intersection because it had fewer potential contact points for a traffic crash. Scott Campbell of CT Consultants said, “the roadway project is important because the most exciting thing is the new high school.” He also said the proposed roundabout, with a 120-foot diameter, would be wide enough for large trucks and school buses to pass through.

Consultants said in addition to reducing crash contact points from 32 to eight, it also lessens the changes of head-on and T-bone crashes and is much safer for pedestrians to cross the road.

As council and board members discussed other options such as an overhead bridge or a tunnel, concerns were raised about potential flooding, safety, security, maintenance costs, and ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) issues.

They also came to the consensus that an overhead bridge would pose problems with the necessary ramps that can’t be more than five degrees as well as people dropping things on traffic passing under the bridge.

The cost for the four-way signalized intersection was $827,346, and the city has already been awarded a federal grant of $530,881 and would be responsible for the $296,465 in local costs.

Mayor Brent Centers said the estimate for a roundabout is estimated at nearly $2.2 million.

Adding a tunnel, depending on the width would add another $1.1 to nearly $1.5 million to the roundabout costs.

“I think a roundabout will slow traffic down,” said Vice Mayor Todd Hall. “I don’t think the tunnel is fiscally responsible and I’m not for the bridge.”

While some council and board members preferred the four-way stop, the consensus was supportive of the roundabout with crosswalk options and rumble strips to help slow traffic.

The proposed roundabout will need additional room and the city has been discussing the acquisition of the JEMS Building adjacent to Community Park.

JEMS Chief Andrew Riddiough said after the school bond issue was passed last year, he said JEMS had already been looking at future options. In addition, there is a pending study about combining JEMS with the Carlisle and Franklin Twp. fire departments.

Centers said the next conversation with the board will be to discuss possible cost sharing for the project and that the city will be applying for an Ohio Public Works Commission grant in May that could cover about 50% of the costs.

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