Commission Approves Wal-Mart Rezoning
Tuesday night the Manhattan City Commission approved the rezoning for the new Wal-Mart store on Tuttle Creek Blvd and Bluemont Ave.
Wal-Mart has too many items to get into the Express Check-out lane. They want to come back to the City within 30 days with building plans but first they must complete a deal which involves a land swap with the City and the American Legion.
Wal-Mart needs a part of the American Legion parking lot for a road but they must get the City to give up the water detention pond, so they can build the American Legion a new parking lot.
And then there is traffic, a lot of traffic. The Commission spend about a hour and a half talking about traffic Tuesday night.
Here are a few of the traffic problems discussed by Jeff Hancock, Acting City Engineer:
The developer’s consultant, Peters and Associates, performed a detailed traffic study and the results indicate significant impacts to the immediate and surrounding areas.  The City retained George Butler Associates to review the various analyses, and develop a series of NETSIM simulation models in order to determine the expected impacts and the adequacy of the improvements proposed by the Wal-Mart Corporation.  Paul Bertrand has provided extensive input over the last several months, and has summarized his comments in a letter, which is part of the packet for the Planning Board.  Public Works is in agreement with Mr. Bertrand.
The Kansas Department of Transportation (KDOT) has provided the City with a “Must Have” list of traffic improvements necessary to secure a permit for improvements along the Tuttle Creek Boulevard corridor.  The KDOT list; all improvements as identified in the traffic study, along with specific geometric improvements as recommended by Paul Bertrand are required for a positive recommendation, relative to traffic, to the appointed and elected officials.
City Administration does concur with the recommendation that access management relative to site driveways be utilized.  Furthermore, access management techniques should be considered along all of the street networks according to the recommendations of the Manhattan Area Transportation Strategy - Connecting to 2020.
Access management is the process that provides access to land development while simultaneously preserving the flow of traffic on the major street system in terms of safety, capacity and speed.  The amount of access should decrease as the functional classification of the street increases.  Bluemont Avenue is classified as an arterial street.  An arterial is a major street whose primary purpose is to provide safe and efficient long-distance travel.  Providing direct access to adjacent properties is secondary.
The interests of individual property owners are recognized under law and by the City of Manhattan.  However, these interests are not paramount.  The traveling public has a right to safe and efficient use of our street system and to efficient expenditure of public funds.  Thus, the City has a responsibility to regulate access and protect corridors arising from its duty to administer and maintain the street system.  When consideration is being given to restrict existing access, the City should consider the existing access scenario, access alternatives to direct access, efficient use of resources, and engineering factors pertaining to the safe movement of traffic.
Each additional driveway that is located on an arterial reduces the arterial’s traffic carrying capacity.  Studies indicate that average travel speeds during peak hours are considerably higher on well-managed streets than on streets that are less well managed, even though the two types of roads carry approximately the same number of vehicles.  The capacity of any given arterial is limited.  Traffic volumes will continue to increase along this portion of Bluemont Avenue.  Therefore, it makes sense to enact minimum controls to preserve the traffic carrying capacity of this arterial for as long as possible.
Business owners often express the concern that access management changes will have a temporary or permanent impact on their sales.  They are particularly concerned about access management projects, such as medians, that reduce turning opportunities for motorists.  Analysis conducted in the Iowa studies (referenced at end of memo) indicates that businesses located within access management corridors generally outpace overall community sales activity.  The Iowa study states that, “At a minimum, these results indicate that access management did not negatively impact business activity.”
Everyone benefits by cooperative efforts to provide good access design.  Not only is the public investment in the roadway protected by the application of access management techniques, but those using the surrounding properties and every driver using the roadway benefit as well.  Property values remain stable or may increase along a roadway that carries significant traffic volumes so long as the traffic can flow smoothly with a minimum of congestion and conflicting movements.  Each driver is rewarded with lower vehicle operating costs due to smoother operations and less delay and with greater safety and comfort due to fewer conflicting traffic movements.
The applicant and the City’s traffic consultant, Paul Bertrand of George Butler Associates, have recognized that the current traffic analysis, with proposed improvements in place, indicates that traffic will flow well and in an acceptable manner most of the time.  At peak hours there will be noticeable delays and congestion.   As traffic volumes and congestion grow on the extension of Bluemont Avenue, there will be a point in the future when traffic demand will exceed the capacity of the proposed improvements.  The current NETSIM analysis, as provided by George Butler Associates, suggests this will occur in approximately seven years.  All of the improvements, as proposed, are vitally important to establishing a reasonable transportation network consistent with the needs of this development.
Public Works and the Community Development staff have worked closely on the recommendations and conditions that are detailed in the staff report.  Accordingly, those are endorsed and not repeated in this memo.
The developer’s consultant performed a detailed drainage study.  Consistent with the 1995 Storm Water Management Master Plan, City Administration is stipulating that the developer maintain, or replace in-kind, the stage/storage relationship that is currently present in the detention pond immediately north of Ace Hardware.  The developer has indicated that this can be accomplished. Analysis by Monty Prescott of BG Consultants indicates the importance the detention pond and its function within the drainage area.
In addition, the developer will be required to meet the Storm Water Phase I requirements established by The Environmental Protection Agency and administered by the Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  City Administration accepts the drainage study for this development.