UPDATED: Wal-Mart Submits Updates to Traffic Plan for Proposed Bel Air Supercenter; Opponents Unveil Professional 2nd Opinion

UPDATE: Wal-Mart Refutes Professional Critique of Traffic Plans for Proposed Bel Air Supercenter; Claims Statements are Outdated and Incorrect

http://www.daggerpress.com/2013/08/25/wal-mart-refutes-professional-critique-of-traffic-plans-for-proposed-bel-air-supercenter-claims-statements-are-outdated-and-incorrect/

In recent crossfire over a proposed Wal-Mart Supercenter in Bel Air, Wal-Mart submitted final updates to its traffic mitigation plan, asserting that the plan meets Harford County requirements; and store opponents unveiled a professional second opinion indicating that traffic generated by the store has been underestimated and proposed traffic signals violate state guidelines.

Wal-Mart announced plans over one year ago to close its Abindgon store and build a new Supercenter on an undeveloped parcel zoned for business near the intersection of Plumtree Road and MD 924 in Bel Air. The Supercenter is proposed to include an automotive center, pharmacy with drive-thru, groceries (with a separate market entrance) and garden center. Hundreds of area residents have fought the store, saying the added traffic will overload already congested roadways, and create unsafe conditions.

Harford County requires developers to conduct a Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA), outlining how they will mitigate the impact of additional traffic on intersections affected by their project. The TIA is among a number of required submissions that must be approved by the Department of Planning and Zoning in order for a development to proceed.

On Wal-Mart’s behalf, traffic engineering and transportation planning firm The Traffic Group, Inc. submitted on August 14th, responses to issues raised by the county about the company’s traffic mitigation plan. In a letter to Harford County Transportation Planner Alex Rawls, The Traffic Group Vice President Joseph Caloggero concluded that the overall plan, involving the expansion of area roads and new traffic signals, adequately addressed county requirements.

Pete Gutwald, Harford County director of planning and zoning said on Friday that The Traffic Group’s responses were under review and posted on the county Web site for the public.

The text of the August 14 letter from The Traffic Group appears below. New and/or noteworthy items include:

• Wal-Mart proposes new traffic signals at each of the following intersections: Bel Air South Parkway and Blue Spruce Drive; the planned intersection at Plumtree Road and Blue Spruce Drive; and the proposed site access point at MD 924 and Bright Oaks Drive. The signal at MD 924 and Bright Oaks Drive is proposed despite comments from the county that it did not appear to meet the criteria for distance from existing signals. The Traffic Group contends that levels of service and queuing at all of the above intersections would be at acceptable levels with new traffic signals. Traffic signals are subject to approval by the State Highway Administration.

• Wal-Mart proposes to add a northbound right turn lane on Tollgate Rd. to mitigate traffic at the intersection with Bel Air South Parkway. A roundabout had
previously been considered at this location.

• Conceptual plans submitted by The Traffic Group show that mitigation required by the county at other intersections is feasible, according to the company. However, The Traffic Group proposes to address specifics when it provides fully-engineered drawings following county approval of the site plan.

Contradicting key aspects of The Traffic Group’s overall traffic impact analysis, and echoing some issues also raised by the county department of planning and zoning, Century Engineering, Inc. of Hunt Valley issued a June 7th “Technical Memorandum” based on an analysis of The Traffic Group’s submissions on behalf of Wal-Mart and related communications with government agencies through May 24, 2013.

According to the Technical Memorandum from Century Engineering, Inc.:

• Traffic generated by the Wal-Mart Supercenter will be substantially greater than projected. Trip generation analysis provided to the county by The Traffic Group was based on the Institute of Transportation Engineers (ITE) classification for a “Retail Store”, rather than a “Free-Standing Discount Superstore”, which is associated with increased trips. Additional studies addressing pass-by trips and peak-hour traffic generation rates have found that Supercenters, which combine general merchandise with a full grocery department, generate an average of 42% more traffic than the rate listed for Free-Standing Discount Superstores in the ITE Trip Generation Manual. The average Wal-Mart Supercenter generates nearly 10,000 car trips per day, and an average of 7 – 9 tractor-trailer deliveries per day, according to the memorandum.

• Proposed traffic signals surrounding the site are too close together, violating applicable spacing guidelines from the State Highway Administration of 1900 ft. In particular, the proposed signal at the site access point at MD 924 and Bright Oaks Drive is located 810 ft. north of an existing signal at MD 924 and Bel Air South Parkway, and 950 ft. south of an existing signal at MD 924 and Plumtree Rd.

According to a source that provided Century Engineering’s Technical Memorandum to The Dagger, the memorandum was also cited in a recent letter to the State Highway Administration from Harford County Councilman James “Capt’n Jim” McMahan, representing Bel Air.

McMahan acknowledged sending the letter dated August 2nd, and another to the county planning and zoning department. “I wanted to make sure all the information is available to the people charged with the responsibility of making the decision on this matter…My aim is not to single out Wal-Mart but to make sure the i’s are dotted and the t’s are crossed, whoever will be developing something like this.” McMahan said his letter also advised SHA about increased vehicular and pedestrian traffic anticipated in the area resulting from cutbacks in school bus transportation for the upcoming school year. A copy of McMahan’s letter appears below.

McMahan said he received the Technical Memorandum, produced by what he believes is an independent and reputable engineering firm, from Baltimore attorney Cynthia Leppert. McMahan said that Leppert contacted him saying she represented business people and community members who had engaged Century Engineering to do the analysis, and she knew that constituents in McMahan’s district had voiced opposition to the project. McMahan referred further questions about the group to Leppert, who did not return calls on Friday.

Below is the August 14 submission from The Traffic Group, Inc. to Harford County Transportation Planner Alex Rawls:

Below is the August 2nd letter from Councilman McMahan to the State Highway Administration:

Comments

  1. none says

    Based on the above claims, The current redlight at Constant Friendship Drive and Tollgate Road must be illegal too. It’s only about 700′ from the redlight under Route 24.

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    • noble says

      That rule, as far as I remember, is dependent on the type of road, whether it is state or not, and what the designation of the road is (varies by size, volume, etc).

      The most similar example to this currently is the entrance/exit of the Wegmans on 924 across from Trellis (state road, same type, similar distance). The state would not permit a traffic signal there now because of the proximity to Woodsdale to the south and Box Hill to the north. So what was built was the right in/right out design with the crossing left. And as someone who drives that portion of the road almost daily, this was the right decision.

      At one of the first public meetings for that shopping center I expressed my fervent desire for there not to be another traffic light there, and the first time I reviewed the Walmart site plan, I thought the same thing for the entrance at Bright Oaks– it’s idiotic to put a light there. It should be a right in/right out, with a reconfiguration of the entire parking lot to get people out of the other 2 exits from the shopping center to get where they are going– but that would require more money from Walmart, and coming up even more short on the required parking spaces than they already are– does anyone remember that? They haven’t bought enough land to have enough parking spaces for code and have requested a waiver.

      Low prices, at your expense.

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  2. WUHT says

    Who knows what the deal is with the 1900 foot rule? I would venture to assume you can find dozens of traffic lights in Harford county that are under 1900 feet apart.

    Route 22/136 to route 22/155 must be 500′ at least. LOL

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    • says

      The applicable SHA guidelines for signal spacing in this case, as posited by Century Engineering, are provided in the letter above from Councilman McMahan (page 2, starting at the center of the page).

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  3. LLE says

    Why do we need another Wal-Mart? With one in Abingdon, just down the road and one in Fallston, isn’t that enough?

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      • Chesapeakelady says

        And as soon as Wally World closes the Abingdon store, that store will remain vacant. Have seen this countless times before, and it doesn’t matter if it’s here or in Mississippi or California…no one will rent the vacant stores and they will fall into disrepair and be a target for gang graffiti. Lovely thought, huh?

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          • Vinnygrret says

            K-Mart had a location in Harford, in Joppatowne. It closed quite some time ago, was replaced by C-Mart and now houses a big flea market and a weekend Amish Market. Chesapeakelady is right, though. How many years ago did the old Ames store in Edgewood close? The old Ames near HdG has only been replaced fairly recently. Wal-Mart wants to take over as much grocery business as it can – that’s why it wants to close the Abingdon store. They ought to build on the vacant lot in Edgewood. But that will never happen.

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          • Aberdeen Parent says

            Kmart also was in Bel Air, were Pier 1 and Mens Warehouse is currently. It closed around 1995 or so I believe.

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        • W.T.F.? says

          Hey Chesapeakelady…..It’s called the free market. I guess you would rather have “Big Gubmint” decide when and where private business owners (whether you support them or not) are allowed to open or close their privately owned bisiness’s (assuming they have met the zoning standards, etc. that are already in place). It’s asinine the way some of the Harford County elected officials have punted this political football for political reasons (and it starts at the top with County Executive and governor wanna-be DavidCraig, and ends at the lowest common denominator wanna-be Senator Art Helton! Sick Mo Fo’s!

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          • says

            Hey WTF, suppose I put a gas station next door to you. I guess you think private business should be able to do what ever they want for profit and if ruins your home, WTF “……..It’s called the free market.”

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          • Come on guy says

            Here in Maryland It’s called zoning, and you probably won’t be able to build a gas station just right next to someone’s house.

            Find another state that doesn’t have Maryland’s zoning rules to use that example for.

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          • The Money Tree says

            Really? Then wanna explain the Royal Farms at the end of 152 before it hits the 95 interchange?

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          • come on guy says

            Money tree, its called zoning. Here in Maryland there is zoning. Generally the land where ever it is will be zoned, then free market gets to build pending approvals.

            The idea that a gas station will erect next to anyones house out of the blue is unlikely, because of zoning.

            If you are dumb enough to buy a house with the next door clump of land zones for business and undeveloped, that is your fault

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          • The Money Tree says

            Then want to explain the shopping center on the corner of 152 and Rte. 1? That was ag property; no zoning ordinance change, no progression from ag, to R1…just presto chango became a stinky shopping center. Somehow I doubt the guy that has the house next to that mess expected that to happen.

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          • come on guy says

            I cannot explain that specific incident, I’m not saying you are right or wrong as I have a basic laymens understanding of zoning. There is a lot of opinion and one sided views on the internet.

            That is 1 piece of property out of thousands.

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          • come on guy says

            I cannot explain that specific incident, I was not there or apart of that so I will not input my opinion.

            That is 1 piece of property out of thousands.

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          • BelairBob says

            Moneytree the rt 1 & 152 is zoned both b3 and ag. The shopping center is built on the b3 portion because zoning laws won’t allow that sort of building on the ag zoned portion. Mike Euler is no farmer he didn’t buy ag zoned property to plant turnips.

            Keep swinging you are bound to hit one eventually…..

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          • The Money Tree says

            My point is given the right amount of influence and shenanigans…and with the collusion of people more vested in developement both inside and outside of government anything can happen. If they want to ignore zoning and there’s enough money involved things just happen – rules are ignored and neighborhoods destroyed.

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          • The Money Tree says

            Bob – so you’re saying Mr. Euler hasn’t already asked for a waiver to build a sports complex? Of course he has Bob and you know it – and public hearings have been held. He also wants waivers to put in 2 fast food restaurants on ag property in Fallston because he thinks we need junk food I guess. Keep swinging Bob…

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          • The Money Tree says

            I’d also add Bob – your buddy Mr. Euler has some property along Connelly Rd. and I think Robin Hood in HdG and in 2009 he asked for exceptions to extend water and sewer and got them. How odd…somebody that just buys open ag property that they don’t live on and in which no plans for development have been submitted applies for an exception and gets it and not to mention around that same time Mr. Craig had submitted a transportation plan to the state that included a roundabout at the corner of 147 and Connelly Rd…hmmmm.

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          • BelairBob says

            Money tree you are talking out your ass again with nothing to back it up. You are the product of 6 generations of Harford county farmers and land owners alleging illegal activities. Call Mr Cassilly I’m sure he’d love to hear the evidence you have.

            Fact is once again you are full of sh!t and have been called on it for what… the 100th time? But hey you do have a heck of a swing….

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          • The Money Tree says

            I’m not alleging anything illegal dufus…I’m pinpointing the results of a collusion between government and developers of which the public isn’t informed until well after proposals and multiple promises and suggestions have already been made. However if you think I’m naive enough to think it occasionally doesn’t evolve farther into illegalities you’re wrong. Mr. Hess didn’t spend time in jail over nothing.

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          • BelairBob says

            Classic…. in one statement you claim not to allege anything illegal is going on then proceed to allege something illegal is going on. Yer fricken nutz.

            As I said call Mr Cassilly, his number is listed and give him your evidence.

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          • The Money Tree says

            Dufus – it’s all a matter of public record. You just have to dig a little bit. You do realize that the word collude does not always suggest illegal – perhaps secretive though. Reality is dufus nobody like Euler who’s never grown so much as a tomatoe buys 56 acres along Connolly Rd. unless he wants something built there eventually. I’d have to assume only a dufus would spend the money unless somebody in the “know” indicated it could be worked out in his favor (eventually). I think it’s fair to call Mr. Euler a developer and that would suggest some degree of protocol and savvy so unless he’s a bigger dufus than you I’m sure he’s already lined up a duck or two.

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          • BelairBob says

            Having owned the property for 12 years I’m guessing his “collusion” skills need a bit of honing….. ;)

            If nothing else money your lack of knowledge is entertaining

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          • Bill H says

            Why don’t you 2 get a room?

            MT you keep asking basic zoning questions, they get answered and your off to another topic that has nothing to do with walmart or the traffic issues. WTF?

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          • The Money Tree says

            I wasn’t asking questions…certainly not zoning questions. I understand zoning completely. There’s a larger question here though and it’s not at all off topic at all. It’s the stage at which the public is finally informed regarding development projects – certainly there’s an issue of public malaise, but there’s no question some of these development projects take years to clear a path. As far as the roundabout on 147 and Connolly if you check the letter it clearly states there were monies already in escrow to pay for it and from a developer. It didn’t say which one but I would find that interesting since there is no project on record at this time and wasn’t in 2012 either. I know that roundabouts are paid for at 90% if you use HSIP federal funds…that could be why the monies were refunded and the project removed from the 2013 transportation plan. Regardless always follow the money and don’t assume everyone has clean hands either.

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          • BelairBob says

            “I wasn’t asking questions”

            “Then want to explain the shopping center on the corner of 152 and Rte. 1?”

            You have a problem……

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          • BelairBob says

            “I wasn’t asking questions”

            “Really? Then wanna explain the Royal Farms at the end of 152 before it hits the 95 interchange?”

            A big problem……

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          • Bill H says

            “I wasn’t asking questions…certainly not zoning questions. I understand zoning completely. There’s a larger question here though and it’s not at all off topic at all. It’s the stage at which the public is finally informed regarding development projects – certainly there’s an issue of public malaise, but there’s no question some of these development projects take years to clear a path. As far as the roundabout on 147 and Connolly if you check the letter it clearly states there were monies already in escrow to pay for it and from a developer. It didn’t say which one but I would find that interesting since there is no project on record at this time and wasn’t in 2012 either. I know that roundabouts are paid for at 90% if you use HSIP federal funds…that could be why the monies were refunded and the project removed from the 2013 transportation plan. Regardless always follow the money and don’t assume everyone has clean hands either.”

            Sweet jesus there you go again WTF does a roundabout have to do with walmart?

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          • Keith Gabel says

            @Bill H – I take no issue with you or any of your statements. Yes, we should be talking about Walmart and its traffic/safety impact on 24 and 924, rather than other aspects of the county.

            In defense of Money Tree, BelAir Bob is a bomb thrower of a conversationalist. He enjoys goading people, especially those who will be adversely affected by over-development. I don’t claim to know Money Tree or the basis of his opinions, I do appreciate them, much more than his often nonsensical sparring partner. So, I’ll take some heat off of him by asking the following question.

            BelAir Bob – Tell us how you feel about the lack of infrastructure to support a new super Walmart that will cut-off Bel Air from Abingdon.

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        • Aberdeen Parent says

          A great example close to home are the closed Elkton and Glen Burnie Walmarts. Walmart relocated both of those stores to different locations a mile away, and both original stores have sat empty for years now. This could easily happen to the Abingdon store.

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  4. Keith Gabel says

    What has amused me about the traffic issue has been hearing Craig and many County Council members put their faith in the O’Malley administration’s SHA to do the right thing by the county’s traffic problems.

    It is just weird when a Republican looks you in the eye and tells you to trust the Democrats, which is what has happened to me on several occasions when I brought up the issue of traffic abatement.

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    • Kharn says

      IIRC the county must request SHA action for any changes to the numbered roads, meaning 24 and 924 are within the state’s responsibilities, not the county’s.

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    • Keith Gabel says

      County officials have a duty to contact their state colleagues to ask for help whenever a state function has begun to fail in order to ask for relief, such as in matters of traffic abatement along state roads within a county. Otherwise, you are stuck with surrendering and hoping for the best result.

      This is what many of our elected officials have told me in private, that they are just going to put their faith in O’Malley’s people and hope that the traffic problems in Harford County are cured by the state.

      Again, it is a bit creepy hearing local Republicans speaking favorably of the O’Malley administration’s plans for Harford County’s road network, as if we don’t have any input worth mentioning.

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  5. Darlene Sakers says

    It is really amazing to me that no one seems to care about all the traffic that will the result of all of the new home construction in the Abingdon area. The only concern is WalMart. Well WalMart needs to more, since the state change the traffic pattern at 924, 24 & 95 it has become a death trap. But again no one seems to be interested in this. The current Abingdon WalMart needs to close, especially since you can’t get to it safely.

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    • D says

      There is much concern about new developments and the traffic they bring (please review old posts on this website). And, a majority of the traffic in the state created intersection “improvement” isn’t from the Abingdon Walmart. And if we are talking about traffic and safety then there is no way that a nearly 200,000 square foot SuperWalmart (with potential for Sams Club to be right on it’s heels) should move into the Plumtree/924 lot. This area is already accident alley, is a school zone, has failing intersections, gridlock causing road rage, and over 200 more students walking/driving to school due to the HCPS transportation change. And yes, the people that brought you the “improved” intersection at Tollgate24/924 will bring you “improved” roads surrounding the Plumtree apartments, the Medstar facility, and the hopefully never to be built Plumtree SuperWalmart. Double lane round-abouts, Bel Air South Pkwy having more lanes than I-95, Tollgate Road becoming a major cut-through once it is opened up—all the dominoes will fall and crash! I’d love to see how that all integrates with the counties Pedestrian/Cycling Master Plan too. Yes, there is much concern about traffic. This is all about the traffic and safety, the safety and traffic, and then the traffic and safety again.

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  6. Mr Bill says

    Looks like the walmart opposition group is hiring its own small firm to grasp at straws by trying to come up with a new classification for the ITE and to try to re-classify the proposed Walmart into something that it is not currently submitted as. People have to understand that when you allow a few people with money to force all development into a ” development envelope” that this is what it looks like. This is the result of the fight against urban sprawl and the people who have the money to prevent development in more rural areas next to their homes and estates.

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    • noble says

      Well the point is really that the entire plan was originally submitted using trip generation factor that isn’t really accurate. A super Walmart encompasses so many different services it’s really like a ICS, or shopping center, or multiple stores in one– one of which is a grocery which has significantly higher volumes of traffic per day than a standard retail store used for the original computations.

      It’s not wrong, technically speaking, it’s just not really accurate or frankly honest, to not include the proper store designation when determining trips. Can they do it? I think so. Should they? Absolutely not, in my opinion. They are submitting information that is not representative of their project impact, which saves them money and passes the costs on to us, the tax payers.

      Is this any different than what has come before? Probably not. But at what point do we stop shrugging out shoulders and stop letting companies get one over on us?

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      • Mr Bill says

        When we become the “haves” or convince people to take there civic duty seriously and hold our elected officials accountable. Like you say it ain’t gonna happen fighting about something that’s already be done. I applaud the effort of the opposition and I hope they are there years down the road when big business and our politicians try to expand the envolope further. In the meantime I guess we will have to learn to enjoy

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  7. Phil in Bel Air says

    Another hurricane season and still no Walmart in Bel Air. Guess I’ll drive to Fallston for my duct tape.

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    • D says

      Phil–Or go to Lowes and get 5% off with your Lowes card. And HD will meet that discount if your show your Lowes card. Better yet, shop local and go to Courtlands.

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      • Kharn says

        Home Depot doesn’t need to see the Lowes card anymore, just ask for it and show them your HD card.
        But I do like that Lowes’ software takes it off automatically without having to ask for help at the self-checkouts.

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  8. Luther Lingus says

    ANOTHER SHITMART – just want we need in Harford County.

    Next will be the Welfare bus dropping off poor shoppers and gang bangers at Harford Mall.

    Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 5 Thumb down 5
    • mike jones says

      So what kind of cracker are you ??? Better then the fallston bus that drops off people born on 3rd base and think they hit a triple !!!!

      Hot debate. What do you think? Thumb up 2 Thumb down 6
  9. Gary Ambridge says

    August 21, 2013

    I would strongly urge the community to write to the Maryland Highway Administration and ask that Wal Mart’s application for a building permit be rejected due to an untoward impact upon our road infrastructure.
    RE: Impact on TIA for Wal Mart Application MD 24 and MD 924

    Mr. David Peake
    District Engineer
    State highway Administration’
    320 West Warren Road
    Hunt Valley, MD 21030

    With a copy to:

    Mr. Alex Rawls
    Transportation Planner
    Harford County Government
    220 South Main Street
    Bel Air, Maryland 21014

    We, the citizens most affected by the construction of a Wal Mart Super Store in our midst, are opposed to the impact that ten to eighteen thousands of additional vehicles will have upon our neighborhood. We are especially opposed to a MD 924 @ Bright Oaks Drive/Site Access and a signal.

    Thank you

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    • BelairBob says

      untoward- adj. unexpected and inappropriate or inconvenient.

      Are these reasons state highways uses for acceptance or rejection of road issues?

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      • Keith Gabel says

        In this case, untoward translates to an estimated 10,000 daily car trips, so, yes, it will give pause to anyone looking at traffic flow on a minor state road, such as 924.

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  10. betty smith says

    oddly enough, I saw the traffic group doing the study the middle of june, which is in no way indicative of the real traffic count, since school was already out so take the students and the staff out of the traffic and, many people are on vacation which means it will appear as though traffic isn’t really so bad!!!!!

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      • The Money Tree says

        Hey Bob…dufus…wouldn’t that depend on which roads and what time the survey was taken? Yes, it does matter because assuming you’re measuring an area near a school where there’s likely to be more ingress/egress because there are a concentrated number of students and teachers and school personnel in the area it may well be that summer roads along that stretch are less traveled. Not to mention the types of retail in an area that already exist. Does it make sense to you that in and around a public pool not so many show up in December? You’re such an arrogant @ick…

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        • BelairBob says

          You are absolutely right Money tree when all those teachers and kids are “in the school” there are more people on the roads outside the school……

          I’m such a dufus….

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          • The Money Tree says

            Unless they’re parachuting in dufus they have to get there somehow. Jeez you’re so intent on being a @ick you can’t even see logic.

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    • Keith Gabel says

      @Betty Smith – You are correct. They surveyors should be doing tests both during rush and non-rush hours. If the focus is only non-rush hours, it is called “skewing the results” to make it appear as if there is less traffic. Walmart and other developers have an interest in emphasizing non-rush numbers. The people who live and work here have an interest in focusing on the rush hours. The State Highway Administration will attempt to split the baby, as it were, and give the developers their new buildings and give the rest of us more traffic. That’s its job, for better or for worse.

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