submitted by Tom Linehan [Email address: allandalereporter #AT# - replace #AT# with @ ]

It’s a fact. Wal-Mart significantly undercounted the traffic impact of the Supercenter at Ben White. The City also acknowledges the formula used to estimate traffic counts for the Traffic Impact Analysis (TIA) for the Northcross redevelopment do not apply to Supercenters. 

In response to Brewster McCracken’s request for traffic data from City staff, the numbers provided in the initial TIA Lincoln Properties provided with the site plan at the Ben White store undercounted actual traffic by over 6,500 vehicle trips per day on a Tuesday in January and by 9,766 on a Saturday. In an email to Wells Dunbar, an Austin Chronicle reporter, dated April 10th, Brewster McCracken wrote the following:

“In short, here are the findings:

1.  The Ben White Super Wal-Mart is generating traffic counts
approximately 100% higher than Wal-Mart’s TIA stated it would.
2.  The Ben White Super Wal-Mart experienced no drop-off in traffic
counts in January, despite city claims that traffic counts for December
were up to 41.8% higher than the rest of the year.
3.  The Institute for Traffic Engineers has found that the ITE formulas
used by Austin and other cities undercount the traffic impact of stores larger than 200,000 square feet by about 50%.”  (click here to read more about what Wells learned in talking with Brewster)

To be clear, the City did two traffic counts: one in December 2006 and another in January 2007. Why is it we’re just now getting the numbers for the January count? It’s been 2 ½ months since the second count was completed. This is information Assistant City Manager Laura Huffman had when she led the meetings with the neighborhoods and Lincoln/Wal-Mart on February 21 at Armbrust and Brown. It’s not clear who the City staff is looking after, the neighborhoods or Lincoln Properties and Wal-Mart?

More importantly, now that we know the traffic impact for the Northcross Supercenter represents a significant undercount (see article from ITE Journal article referenced in Brewster’s email), what is the City  going to do about it? Do they let the Supercenter go in as proposed in the site plan? We believe the Supercenter is going to bring the intersections surrounding it to fail. How much is convenience and low price worth…two stop light changes, three? We want to know what the City is planning to do to mitigate the traffic increase and who is going to pay for it? Do you believe an extra turn lane at Anderson and Burnet is going to take care of it? Imagine yourself at that intersection in December 2009. And we deserve to know what impact it is going to have on our residential streets, something not included in the original TIA because it was not required.

As ANA has been saying all along, an independent TIA needs to be completed. Let’s do it right and then come up with the appropriate mitigation measures to accommodate the increase in traffic. If the projected impact is half of what is really going to happen then the Supercenter should be half the proposed size. Our neighborhood is not the place for one of Wal-Mart’s behemoth Supercenters no matter how nice it looks. The City staff should not have the right to approve a project that is going to bury us in traffic.