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: