Responding to a professional critique of Wal-Mart’s plan to mitigate traffic from a proposed Bel Air Supercenter, a spokesman for Wal-Mart said on Wednesday that the critique contained statements that were outdated and/or incorrect.
The critique of Wal-Mart’s traffic mitigation plan was issued in a June 7th technical memorandum from Century Engineering, Inc., of Hunt Valley that was reportedly commissioned by business interests opposed to the store. Harford County Councilman James “Capt’n Jim” McMahan later presented findings from the memorandum in letters to the state and county authorities responsible for approving the traffic plan.
Rebutting two statements in the Century Engineering memorandum, Harry Hammel of Sandy Hillman Communications, a Baltimore public relations firm representing Wal-Mart, wrote in an August 21 e-mail to The Dagger:
“I wanted to quickly bring to your attention two statements that were made in Century Engineering’s technical memorandum and addressed in your recent ‘Wal-Mart Submits Updates to Traffic Plan for Proposed Bel Air Supercenter; Opponents Unveil Professional 2nd Opinion’ article. Toward the middle of the piece, the article states:
• 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.
o I just wanted to make you aware that this comment made by Century Engineering is actually incorrect, as The Traffic Group DID USE the “Free-Standing Discount Superstore” Category as required and APPROVED by Harford County so they could submit their studies.
• 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.
o The information used in the above comment was obtained from a 2002 SHA produced brochure. The updated traffic signal brochure (http://www.roads.maryland.gov/Index.aspx?PageId=275) describes the methodology in which traffic signals are approved within the SHA. The SHA reviews many different criteria, not only signal spacing, when determining the need for a traffic signal.
– Intersection design
– Accident history and potential
– Vehicle traffic volumes and gaps in traffic approaching the intersection
– Turning traffic and pedestrian crossings
– Approach speeds and sight distances
– Locations of nearby signals
– Characteristics of the area and adjacent land use
– Projected and planned growth
Just wanted to make you aware of the above comments as Century Engineering’s memorandum included some facts which were outdated and incorrect.”
Hammel declined to comment on the rest of the memorandum.
Century Engineering has not returned calls regarding their memorandum, which according to the memorandum was based on public reports and relevant data through May 24, 2013.
However, Pete Gutwald, director of planning and zoning for Harford County, confirmed on Friday that Wal-Mart did use the ITE land use code for a Free-Standing Discount Superstore in their proposed traffic plan. Wal-Mart’s overall traffic plan for the Supercenter is still under review by Gutwald’s department.
Regarding the spacing of traffic signals, which must be approved by State Highway Administration (SHA), Gutwald wrote in an email: “…one of the many comments from staff was to study and analyze the “system” of signals and intersections and how they work in concert with each other.”
Gutwald also said that as far as he was aware, SHA had not yet made a decision on the traffic signals or on the proposed site access from MD 924 at Bright Oaks Drive. The Harford County Council urged SHA in October to deny access to the store site from MD 924, echoing concerns from hundreds of area residents who have been fighting the store, saying the added traffic will overwhelm roadways and create unsafe conditions. /
Asked whether Wal-Mart had been asked by county or state authorities about the Century Engineering memorandum, Hammel provided the following statement:
“We will continue to work with the local and state traffic reviewers to ensure all needs are met, and we look forward to moving along in the approval process.”