The standard procedure in zoning cases across America is that the developer trots out his hired traffic engineer, who proceeds to explain how adding 12,000 new car trips per day for a Wal-Mart or a Home Depot is actually going to improve vehicle circulation and traffic flow — through the magic of turning lanes, signalization, and other traffic sleight-of-hand. Citizens groups often find themselves driven off the road by a developer’s traffic consultant, who causes Planning Boards to glaze over with incomprehensible impact studies the size of the Manhattan yellow pages. To take the offense, a citizens’ group in Tigard, Oregon has produced its own traffic projections to illustrate what could happen to their community if all the land zoned for big boxes were built out. Tigard First has produced a short new study based on the list of available parcels in their community, and the Institute for Traffic Engineer’s (ITE) Manual. The group says that Tigard could see 100,000 cars per day added to Highway 99. The so-called Tigard Triangle is already choking with the city’s worst traffic congestion, and continued development, starting with a proposed Wal-Mart superstore, could create a traffic nightmare, the group says. The study by the Tigard First determined that if 85% of the Triangle’s available sites are developed, the existing congestion would worsen by up to 100,000 car trips a day — that’s an added volume of 50,000 new cars. Tigard First is asking Mayor Craig Dirksen, the City Council and Planning Commission to address the traffic problems now, before plans for a proposed 220,000-sq.ft. Wal-Mart superstore at 72nd Street and Dartmouth in the Triangle are formally submitted. The group contends that the superstore will bring super traffic to a part of the city that just can’t take any more. According to the group’s website, “We now have a chance to improve Highway 99’s problems. We can reduce the volume of traffic in the Tigard Triangle through a mixed use commercial rezone. This would keep traffic under control, and still encourage business development.” Traffic is the top concern for Tigard’s residents, according to the City’s first Community Attitudes Survey released in June 2006, which sparked the Highway 99 Corridor Improvement Study. That survey determined that Highway 99’s traffic and congestion problems were seen by voters as the most important issues as Tigard plans for the next 20 years. Under existing conditions, there is significant roadway congestion near the Highway 99W/Highway 217 interchange. “Free-standing discount superstores have increased in popularity because of their convenience,” the group says, “combining general retail merchandise, full-service grocery departments and other specialty shops, at discount rates. Due to this increase, many localities are growing concerned over the impact of these stores on their communities and infrastructure system.” This report identifies available land in the Tigard Triangle currently zoned for C-G use, examined those large enough to accommodate large-format retail stores, and calculates future traffic volumes that would be generated by full development according to current zoning standards. The TF study found that, assuming a maximum development rate of 85%, 1,864,254 total square feet is available for “big-box” development. According to the Institute of Transportation Engineers Traffic (ITE) Handbook, a freestanding discount store generates 110 vehicle trips per day per 1,000 square feet and at peak PM hour generates 12 cars per 1,000 square feet per hour. For example, a Wal-Mart SuperCenter proposed for the area at 220,000 square feet would draw 24,200 trips daily. 1,864,254 s.f. would generate 205,068 trips, or 102,534 cars daily. The streets in the Tigard Triangle are already at or near traffic capacity and could not handle the influx of new cars that this C-G zoning is estimated to generate, the group says. “A change of the current Tigard Triangle zoning to CMU (Commercial Mixed Use) would disallow further development of large-scale retail stores, but protect potential profits for landowners. In addition to current traffic congestion issues surrounding the Tigard Triangle, the C-G zoning also violates the spirit and intent of the Tigard Triangle Specific Plan, which calls for “Class A” business use.
Zoning amendments must be approved by the City Council, and require a Comprehensive Plan amendment. Arguments for this alternative are premised on a condition of traffic improvements.”
It is always important to have a counter-proposal to present your vision of what future development should look like, rather than just saying No to a big box store. In this case, Tigard First is trying to stimulate city officials to look ahead to the implications of a big box build out, with Wal-Mart being the first proposal on deck — but not the last. This simple, 5 page study gives the group a media opportunity, and the high group in traffic planning. To get a copy of the study, contact Tigard First Citizens for Responsible Growth at 16200 SW Pacific Hwy Ste H-192 Tigard, OR 97224, or email [email protected]