Franklin leaders consider two-way traffic on one-way streets

Transportation experts and town leaders plan to meet this week in Franklin to consider whether it’s feasible to turn one-way Main and Palmer streets into two-way roads.

As in many small mountain towns, visitors to Franklin find themselves motoring around a large roundabout of sorts. That’s a problem in Sylva, too, and for storeowners in these towns who feel they only get one shot at attracting potential new customers.

There is a significant difference, however, about this Macon County town that sets it apart from its neighbors: downtown Franklin saddles a steep hill. Given the limited parking, motorists are sometimes forced to hike a fair distance to their destinations. Only the truly determined are usually willing to hike uphill to get there.

Do something please, but just don’t add parallel parking to the problem, said Ellen Jenkins, the new owner of Primrose Lane, a gift store on Main Street. Jenkins fears parallel parking would reduce the number of already-limited spaces available in front of her store.

“But I would love to see it two way,” the shop owner said.

A fix won’t be easy, Franklin Town Planner Mike Grubberman said last week.

“There’s quite a bit involved,” he said.

Such as feeding the traffic into the main highway corridors of U.S. 441, U.S. 64 and N.C. 28. The Little Tennessee River also bounds the town, limiting how and where traffic could be siphoned in and out of Franklin.

“You can’t just concentrate on Main Street,” Grubberman said.

The town planner also recognizes parallel parking probably isn’t in Franklin’s future, even though it would only reduce the number of spaces available by one, he said.

“But that seems to be a go-to-guns issue,” Grubberman said.

Suzanne Harouff, who has lived in Macon County since the late 1970s and owns Books Unlimited on East Main Street, said the road in front has been one way as long as she can remember.

In Franklin, both Main and Palmer streets are one way but two lanes. Additionally, parking is available on either side of Main Street, though large vehicles actually jut into the road.

Harouff said she would like to see the town explore options. She did express concern about the large hill that marks the climb into downtown. In winter, Harouff said the hill often becomes dangerously slick, a safety problem that could be compounded in bad weather.

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