CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) — It might be the most well-known street in North Carolina.
Franklin Street is certainly the best-known street in Chapel Hill and in the world of basketball.
During key wins by UNC-Chapel Hill’s basketball team, the street is flooded with Tar Heel fans.
“I don’t think you could have a great UNC experience without having a great Franklin Street. These come hand-in-hand,” student Hamad Almohaimeed said.
But, the street is also a key part of the town with many shops and a good deal of traffic — both pedestrians and cars.
But now, the Chapel Hill Town Council is exploring a redesign of Franklin Street — and transferring maintenance of the road from the North Carolina Department of Transportation.
The various ideas for a new design are explained in a presentation created by the town.
Some include low-cost options such as keeping the current design, but adding certain bike/pedestrian improvements and keeping the maintenance with the town.
Other ideas include adding major intersection safety improvements and adding art in pedestrian right-of-way areas.
Another idea has Franklin Street getting more bike lanes and small parks called “parklets” installed in right-of-way areas — which could add more space for restaurants and businesses.
One major proposal would be to create a mutli-use path along the street. The costly idea would feature a path for walking and bicyclists beside a two-lane road for vehicles. The concept would likely require complete road reconstruction and resurfacing.
The most comprehensive proposal would be to completely reconstruct Franklin Street to “rethink everything” from building faces, sidewalks, green infrastructure and storm water systems.
It would allow for “traffic calming” and provide more space for commerce and restaurants. But, it would require “significant funding” and impact businesses during construction.
One idea even has Franklin Street being returned to its state before COVID-19. That would mean four lanes of traffic but bike lanes would need to be removed.
But some UNC students and their families say, they’d rather keep a walking or biking option than expand driving lanes.
“I don’t think we should expand it but we should definitely have more parking that’s just a block off of Franklin,” parent John Molster said.
“A really good part of Franklin is its accessibility to pedestrians,” student Isabel Molster said. “So I think that’s kind of what makes it Franklin Street is that it’s perfect for people to walk around.”
Town staff will present the options from the presentation to Town Council at their Oct. 12 Regular Meeting.
Town officials want residents to take a survey about what they would like to see.