Franklin Street just an accident waiting to happen

Thursday, March 17, 2016

Back in February, local residents brought a pair of concerns before the Greencastle City Council.

The first addressed the misspelling of Larrabee Street (as Larabee) and a need to properly honor the memory of William C. Larrabee, who taught math and science and served as acting president of DePauw University (then Indiana Asbury), from 1848 to 1849. After 10 years on the local faculty, Larrabee left to become Indiana's first superintendent of public instruction.

New Larrabee signage has been ordered and is expected to be in place soon. Case closed.

The other issue raised was how parking along Franklin Street -- basically from College Avenue to where it dead-ends at Indianapolis Road -- is a safety issue.

In the days since that discussion, an elderly driver struck a car, which was legally parked along the north side of the street. He was shaken up but could easily have been badly injured.

The issue is that Franklin Street has become a major east-west thoroughfare through the city, just as the never-followed 1980 transportation plan predicted it would when it suggested turning Franklin and Washington streets into one-way pairs. The only element of that plan ever adopted was switching how the stopsigns lined up at the Northwood/Durham and Franklin Street intersection. Northwood/Durham used to have the right-of-way to allow traffic bound for the old hospital to move unimpeded through the area. But with the hospital on the south side of the city since 1980, the signs were reversed and Franklin Street has since had the right-of-way there.

And that certainly has helped make it a convenient corridor to use to avoid the congestion and traffic signals along Washington Street.

But encountering parked vehicles in that corridor can impede traffic flow and make one lane come to a complete stop to await clearance in the other direction in order to drive around the parked car or truck or even a trailer at times.

It's not unlike the dangers that lurk at the Walnut and Indiana street intersection where parking along all sides of that intersection greatly reduce visibility. While it has long needed to be a four-way stop, it still remains a two-way with South Indiana traffic moving unimpeded (even though a couple blocks south the Seminary-Indiana intersection became a four-way stop without much fanfare a few years back).

But back at Franklin Street, curiously the infrequency at which drivers encounter parked vehicles seems to only add to the safety equation. Drivers are not expecting to come upon a parked vehicle, especially in the dark, and all of a sudden, there sits one.

At the March City Council meeting Mayor Bill Dory said the Franklin Street situation is still being studied by department heads and others. What is exactly the best solution remains to be seen: No parking at all? Parking on one side only? Greater police presence to slow traffic?

Regardless, something needs to happen.

Status quo is truly just an accident waiting to happen.