Going Roundabout 

The city of Eugene says it plans to redesign Franklin Boulevard to make it safer and more accessible  

Franklin Boulevard is getting a revamp. The city of Eugene says it plans to convert the busy, multi lane road into a more inclusive and accessible street for pedestrians, cyclists and vehicles. 

In November 2021, the cities of Eugene and Springfield with support from the Lane Transit District received a federal grant for $19 million. The RAISE (Rebuilding American Infrastructure with Sustainability and Equity) grant money will be used in Eugene to add roundabout intersections, an additional EmX bus lane and more spaces for pedestrians and cyclists to safely use the street from Alder Street to Interstate 5.

“As the University of Oregon has grown, and as students have moved to be closer to campus and live on both sides of Franklin Boulevard, it no longer works for the community,” says Rob Zako, executive director of Better Eugene-Springfield Transportation (BEST). “People walk, they bike, they take the bus, and people have literally died because Franklin Boulevard is not well designed for anyone.” 

The Federal Highway Administration and Insurance Institute for Highway Safety say that roundabout intersections reduce fatal collisions by 90 percent, and reduce collisions overall by 37 percent. Vehicles are forced to drive slower, and one-way traffic makes it easier and safer for pedestrians and cyclists to cross. The project will also add continuous sidewalks, bike lanes and more crosswalks to promote pedestrian and cyclist safety hopefully. 

The new design also adds a new EmX bus lane. 

“One of the goals of this project is to build another EmX lane so that the buses can get through more efficiently,” says Rob Inerfeld, transportation planning manager for the city of Eugene. “That would enable, over time, Lane Transit District to run the buses at a higher degree of frequency.”

Inerfeld says the project is currently being engineered, with hopes of starting construction in 2026 and completing it by 2028. The project still needs more funding for completion, but will begin with building roundabouts at some intersections. Inerfeld says the city will work to minimize impacts on passage through the corridor and having access to businesses.

A plan to improve the safety of Springfield’s Main Street was scrapped in June 2022 after public feedback. That plan would have added roundabouts and safer pedestrian crossings, too, but also would have added a raised median. Inerfeld points out Franklin already has a median. However, the first phase of Franklin Boulevard’s improvements in Glenwood, including roundabouts, were completed successfully in 2018.

“We see Franklin as an area where we can really create a vibrant mixed-use neighborhood in the city,” Inerfeld says. 

The design will remove a left turn lane at Orchard Street, meaning that people coming from the east trying to go to Market of Choice or Hirons will have to go around the block at Walnut Street to enter the parking lot. However, the project will also change the intersection at Villard, which “is very awkward right now, and we will redesign that to make it safer,” Inerfeld says.  

John Hirons, owner of Hirons Pharmacy, says he is concerned that the proposed design will put the Market of Choice on Franklin out of business, and that the lot that Market of Choice and Hirons inhabits will be bought out and replaced by student housing. “How are people going to be affected by a food desert? A pharmacy desert?” he says. People in the neighborhood “want easy, safe access, and the city is taking that away.”  

However, Ron Rodrigues, executive vice president of operations at Market of Choice, says, “Based on the information we’ve received and the meetings we’ve attended, we don’t see any reason why the Franklin Boulevard project would impact our ability to operate or serve our community.” 

Despite his worries about the project’s effect on business, Hirons is in favor of the new additional crosswalk that is proposed on the Villard intersection and making sure pedestrians and cyclists are safe. 

Increasing safety and accessibility is one of the main priorities for the project and is one of the reasons that organizations like BEST are in favor of the changes. 

“We support the intent of the project and its purpose,” Zako says. “We are hoping to see a sign that’s going to make the street better for everyone, no matter how they drive or how they get around.”

You can find more information about the project at NewFranklinBlvd.org and email questions or comments to Info@NewFranklinBlvd.org or contact transportation planning manager Rob Inerfeld at RInerfeld@eugene-or.gov or 541-556-61-24.

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