Walmart store impact on Cottage Grove traffic to get closer lookPlanning commission concerns have prompted Cottage Grove to undertake deeper study of the potential traffic impacts a proposed Walmart store would have on surrounding roadways.
Planning commission concerns have prompted Cottage Grove to undertake deeper study of the potential traffic impacts a proposed Walmart store would have on surrounding roadways.
Commissioners last week voiced unease with an infrastructure upgrade plan that initially would widen only a short stretch of East Point Douglas Road in front of the proposed 178,000-square-foot store that would be built on a portion of the Cottage View Drive-In theater near the VFW Red Barn. The first round of improvements would also add a turn lane at the intersection with Keats Avenue/County Highway 19.
But, with the proposed Walmart projected to generate 8,000 new vehicle trips per day, planning commissioners expressed doubt that the first phase of road upgrades would be enough to efficiently shuttle drivers through the area. Commissioner Chris Reese even went so far as to say he believed the traffic situation would be “a mess.”
The Planning Commission last week voted to delay making a recommendation to the City Council on whether to approve the Walmart plan to grant city staff more time to address concerns over traffic flow
Now, the city is working with engineering consultants on additional analysis that City Administrator Ryan Schroeder said will shed light on whether additional improvements are needed beyond the planned initial roadwork for which Walmart would foot the bill.
“I think we’ll get a better plan out of all of this, [a better understanding] of all the traffic impacts,” Mayor Myron Bailey said. “We’ll get a better project because of the delay.”
An initial analysis of the store’s traffic impacts showed that East Point Douglas Road, Keats Avenue/County Highway 19 and the nearby U.S. Highway 61 on- and off-ramps will be able to handle the projected traffic increase.
As more commercial redevelopment occurs around the proposed Walmart — which Bailey said he believes will draw additional retailers and restaurants — plans are to begin a second stage of road upgrades that would re-route East Point Douglas Road to the north and construct additional feeder roadways.
Bailey said he is confident a two-phase approach to road improvements in the area is the best way forward. Schroeder said the current plan is identical to the way Cottage Grove handles infrastructure construction in new housing subdivisions.
“The second phase is a costly project, a $6 million project, and we don’t want to do a $6 million project that just runs through land that isn’t developed,” Schroeder said. Later, he added: “We don’t build the new streets in a subdivision before the subdivison is going to be built.”
City officials have also spoken with Walmart representatives and are working with nearby residents who turned out in force at last week’s public hearing on the plan to make it more palatable to those who would live near the big-box retail store.
Bailey said he plans to speak again with neighbors.
“I’m confident that it will [move forward],” he said. “I think, obviously, there’s some questions that need to be answered for the homeowners … and my goal is to ease those concerns as best as I can and, hopefully, move this project toward fruition because I think this is a stepping stone [to more development].”