Harford County Planning Officials Outline Deficiencies in Plumtree Wal-Mart Traffic Study

In an area of Bel Air already known for traffic jams, how will Wal-Mart mitigate the impact of a proposed store at MD 924 and Plumtree Road?

That is the question the company must answer via a traffic study required for the proposed new development. But Wal-Mart’s first crack at traffic solutions fell short by Harford County planning officials’ standards, and now, a letter from the Department of Planning and Zoning has spelled out what the company must do to put the project back on track.

In an Oct. 26 letter, county planning officials detailed deficiencies found in the traffic study Wal-Mart submitted earlier this year, requiring a revised study if the project is to be considered for approval. County officials said that it is not unusual to find deficiencies in a traffic study and for the study to be revised and resubmitted.

The revised study, or Traffic Impact Analysis, must show how Wal-Mart plans to mitigate the impact from store traffic and other potential development on the 33-acre Plumtree site, on intersections selected by the county for analysis. Store traffic for the Wal-Mart store, which will sell groceries, could reach 10,000 trips per day, according to a Wal-Mart representative who spoke at a community input meeting held in July.

Deficiencies in the Wal-Mart traffic study were first noted in summary form at an Oct. 17 Development Advisory Committee meeting, at which the store plans were temporarily rejected by county officials. The DAC meeting also drew hundreds of angry citizens who said the store would snarl traffic near a residential area already plagued by accidents and traffic backups. Wal-Mart officials said after the DAC meeting that they planned to pursue approval for the store and would address the traffic and other concerns raised by state and county officials.

No additional DAC meetings are planned for the Bel Air Wal-Mart, but Pete Gutwald, director of planning and zoning, said that if the company submitted revised plans, including a new traffic study, they would be posted on the county Web site.

The Oct. 26 letter from Gutwald’s department outlines the specific traffic issues that Wal-Mart must address in a revised Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA). Highlights are provided below, followed by a copy of the letter written by county transportation planner Alex Rawls.

The accuracy of traffic counts reported by Wal-Mart are questioned at the intersection of Business US 1 @ MD 24 and also at MD 924 @ Plumtree Rd. County transportation planner Alex Rawls told The Dagger that in the absence of additional information that would verify the counts, they appear wrong and must be retaken or the analysis is in error and must be corrected.

Wal-Mart plans traffic signals at three proposed store access points, but planning officials are asking that a “signal warrant analysis” be conducted to justify their use in accordance with state and local requirements. If traffic signals are not warranted, Wal-Mart will have to identify alternate mitigation plans, Rawls said.

A traffic signal “synchro analysis” must be done for MD 24 and extended south on MD 924 to include Singer Road/Abingdon Road. Rawls said that a “synchro analysis” involves the timing of traffic signals along a designated corridor.

County officials are requiring mitigation plans to be submitted for the intersections at MD 924 @ Ring Factory Road; and at MD 924 @ Patterson Mill Road/Barrington Place.

Mitigation plans submitted for other intersections must be revised. For example, county officials question whether Plumtree Road can be widened between MD 24 and MD 924, due to the location of existing businesses and offices. At MD 24 and Bel Air South Parkway, county officials say the proposed mitigation will cause traffic in the westbound Bel Air South Parkway right turn lane to queue to Blue Spruce Drive. In general, the queuing, or stacking up of cars can create problems at other intersections, Rawls said. Proposed mitigation plans must also be revised at a number of identified intersections along both MD 924 and MD 24.

At the intersection of Bel Air South Parkway @ Tollgate Rd, a proposed all-way stop will not be approved, according to the letter. County officials are requesting a roundabout analysis.

Assumptions about trip distributions are also questioned and must be revised.

Below is a copy of the October 26th letter:


  1. Angry citizen says

    Wal Mart needs to simply get out. There is already another store less than 5 miles in Fallston. This store will put out of business all the small shops nearby that have been in business and family run for years. The owners will be forced to close down and get job to which they are not used to, why, because a multi billion dollar corp can do whatever it wants. WAL MART GET THE HELL OUT! I will not shop at your store, and I refuse to ever set foot in the store in Fallston

    • Kharn says

      If a business cannot find a niche outside of the low-price/low-quality one Walmart dominates, they should fail.

  2. John Dwyer says

    I think Wal-Mart coming is a great idea. Many friends i talk to agree. There are many unemployed, hurting folks in the county, and this can only help. I travel these roads daily, and Wal-Mart can only help towards fixing the situation. The Abingdon store is a nightmare to get to so we should all be glad they are moving.

    • Laurie Whisman says

      Sorry, but if you think the Abingdon store is hard to get to now, putting a store on Plumbtree will be a nightmare. Do you live in the area? Pick any day monday through friday and stand on the corner of Bel Air South Parkway and 924 at 4-7pm. There are so many cars that the intersection is always blocked. I know somebody has the numbers of how many accidents happened the first 3 weeks that Sonic opened. I can count at least 10. There is NO room for the increased traffic. I am not against Walmart, but there needs to be a proper amount of space to accomodate a store that large.

  3. GoBaltimoreBirds says

    I certainly hope the County is not running Walmart through the wringer more so than any other retail establishment. For all who are upset, why didn’t you fight the zoning back in the day? Why now, years after the fact? Walmart is a wealthy company, if they want to take cash money and flush it down the crapper everyday at noon for five minutes, its their money you have no say over what they do with it! Maybe we should have county residents dictate to us how we spend OUR money, also?????

    • RG says

      What they submitted is deficient in a number of areas including traffic and environmental impacts. The fact that being held to the minimum standard is considered “running Walmart through the wringer” demonstrates some of the problems with how development has been allowed to occur in the County.

  4. Keep Up The Fight says

    A Wal-Mart at this location will be devastating to the surrounding community. It will leave abandoned and vacant businesses in its path and the noise from traffic is already unbearable. We bought homes in this area knowing that Wal-Mart was in Constant Friendship not in South Bel Air. Why would you bring all that additional traffic into this area when their present location is right off I-95. The taxpayers just spent 40 million dollars to complete the new interchange. For the integrity of our community and the cost benefit of Wal-Mart shareholders they should re-develop. It doesn’t look like Wal-Marts business model has changed, they continue to railroad communities, only they’re doing it with bigger stores. Saying, “I told you so”, after it’s built and our community is devastated will be no consolation.

    • OldHarfordCounty says

      We bought houses because there was no Bel Air South or North or Bel Forest. Abingdon was a cross roads, not a place more than 20 people lived. But we let the rest of you in with out a vote or throwing too much of a stink. And so many of you came Wal-Mart followed you here. Each group that moves here wants to make sure they are the last. More than likely where ever you call home I used to hunt there. Going to Box Hill was to get a deer, not pizza and crab cakes.

      As for Wal-Mart railroading. I am sure it is the exact opposite. For all the crazy thing that has been said by elected officials on this, if Wal-Mart hired local lawyers they would have filed suit faster than you can print “NO WAL MART” signs. Wal-Mart is being overly nice to a group of people who are trying to deny them the right to use private property as it was intended to be used.

      As for traffic, we are just going to have to admit soon that both 924 and 22 need to be 5 lanes (2 each way and a turning lane). I am sure that will not happen till it is another 10 years overdue. Same reason we don’t fix 2 through Rocks. We listen to those who scream about roads until we kill enough people. Shame, we value rocks and trees more than life itself until we put a name to that life.

      • The Money Tree says

        Would you consider that some are simply concerned about a quality of life they stand to lose by being unlucky enough to end up being picked for the development envelope? Not everybody is new here either, certainly not everybody that objects to a Walmart at that location; I can count back at least 5 generations in Harford – Big Box stores have a place, but it’s certainly not on Plumtree. All this growth was planned around a BRAC realignment that with the looming massive cuts to defense might just have the bottom fall out of it anyway. We might not need all this retail.

        • Walmart Has Rights says

          Walmart has the right to risk its capital on developing new stores.

          They aren’t going to ask you or the government for money if their investment fails.

  5. Harford Lassie says

    The fact is the county is trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. You can only put so much into the development envelope before it is no longer feasible or wise to add more of this magnitude.

    I get that this is where development was supposed to go but after a certain point the infrastructure doesn’t support something as big as this store and the traffic and additional stress on the infrastructure. It’s already overloaded.

    I don’t understand why Walmart can’t build where they already are at Constant Friendship. Please don’t tell me it’s a nightmare to get in and out of and then think it won’t be worse at this new location. That’s the view of an alternative reality. For this to work efficiently Walmart would have to pretty much redo the entire road system from 924/24 into town in Bel Air.

    And for those that think Walmart is great because people need cheap stuff from China, that’s short term thinking as Walmart puts other local business out of jobs and those quality jobs are lost for jobs that require taxpayers to assist with food, energy and other assistance.

    • Peggysue says

      By claiming the traffic and infrastructure is already overloaded without a walmart you are saying it needs correction. So why not let walmart correct it?

      • Harford Lassie says

        That’s not easily done. The roads on 924 near Walmart have already been widened to use the entire right of way. To widen them further would require the county to take private property from both business and residential owners and also part of a historic cemetery. Bel Air South Parkway, one possible entrance, is already 4 lanes and it’s constantly backed up in both directions. Rt 24 is not an option because SHA will not allow an entrance there. Plumtree might work part of the way on the property they own but at Plumtree and 24 there is a new high rise medical pavilion not far from the road.

        • Peggysue says

          I drive through there daily and there is more than enough room to add another lane in each direction with a center turn lane. Gees 2 lanes going straight through that area should more than clear up the present traffic jams and the bonus would be Walmart pays for it.

          What’s not to like?

      • noble says

        Whatever Walmart would do is not going to “correct” anything. They are required to “mitigate” their impact, which means make the traffic afterwards about the same as it is now.

        And routinely when large development happens that has met the technical “mitigation” requirement, the traffic ends up worse in reality.

        And even IF the changes Walmart makes to the roads actually do seem to “correct” the current problems, it won’t last long because the entire area will continue to be developed.

        If we let Walmart use all the right of way for their project there won’t be anyything left to absorb any future development. At a certain point these roads can’t be widened anymore, but do you think the County will give up tax revenues by halting overdevelopment? No way.

        • Peggysue says

          So what you are saying is the current situation is broken and if walmart comes to town they will make sure it remains no more broken than it is now…..

          Ok I’m with you, let the construction begin.

  6. noble says

    Also I’d like to mention that because of the requirements to upgrade and widen the roads as well as the lack of right of way, it will probably mean that Walmart will have to use more of their own land to make it happen.

    As that happens, you can kiss goodbye more of the trees, the neighborhood buffer, the berms, a nice wide walkable sidewalk, a suitably sized parking lot or large enough spaces, etc, etc. You will end up with a giant store jammed into a tiny space with a 3 foot patch of grass between it and the road and all kinds of additional light and noise pollution.

    In other words, all the “nice” things Walmart wants to talk about with their store design are going to disappear as they have to give up more space to meet the MINIMUM requirements for this location. Many of the even remotely postive aspects of the project are going to be gobbled up by their unquenchable thirst for maximizing profit and it’s going to come at your expense in the end.

    • Kharn says

      But that is the entire point of minimum requirements, they’re the least improvements the county is willing to consider on a property but they’re still within the acceptable range. The county zoning board decided on them, if you’re unhappy, why don’t you work to change the laws/regulations instead of crying about Walmart’s compliance?

      • noble says

        My friend, don’t assume I don’t work on changing those requirements, rather than complaining about my “complaining.”

  7. ted says

    If you want to see how Wal Mart does things to get in, and what happens after they are in, watch a documentary on cable ,Current TV channel,

    The name of the show is Walmart:The high cost of low prices. If you can’t find it listed, you can find it on the internet and youtube.

    It opened my eyes to them and now I spend very little money in their stores

  8. Phil from Joppa now in Bel Air says

    My parents, my brother and I used to make a weekly trip from Joppa area to the A&P in Bel Air for Friday night groceries. The reason for the travel – it was the only full service supermarket. We traveled Route 24 (now 924). Nothing but a two lane road with a few houses, a couple churches, and farm fields. Over the years farms have been traded for development, money, power, convenience, plusher more available housing. I imagine there was a price paid for all that progress. I guess it depends on your point of view. For the folks that are living in the development envelope and now don’t like it – take a drive up 543 or 136 toward Harkins road – plenty of room out there and North Harford is a pretty nice school now. As for me, before Sandy hit, hurrying around for supplies, I found myself warming up to the Bel Air Walmart. Like somebody said – it’s like lawyers and the federal government – nobody wants them until they need it. Let it come. If not Walmart it will just be more retail.