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Brewster, you're wrong

“I don’t believe this is the right land use for this location. This is not about an anti Wal-Mart thing. It’s about whether a store that produces this much traffic belongs on a four-lane Anderson Lane as opposed to on a highway. But we have been told consistently two things. One is that we do not have the power to take down or disapprove this site plan and the second is that if we try to do it we’re on our own in a subsequent lawsuit.”—Council Member Brewster McCracken.

Most Wal-Marts outside Texas are on major arterial roadways(*). Some are 6 lanes, some are 4 lanes. Many, such as the one closest to my parents' house in South Florida, are miles away from the nearest 'highway'(**). Only in Texas do we stupidly build major retail and employment destinations on frontage roads, which act as barriers to travel for pedestrians, cyclists, and transit users. Pay special attention to the impossibility of providing cost-effective high-quality transit service on frontage roads. Pushing Wal-Marts back out to frontage roads is a step backwards, not forwards.

(* - Try Wal-Mart's store-finder on a zip code for a major metropolitan area outside Texas. Plug addresses into Google Maps. I guarantee you will see that, outside Texas, nearly zero Wal-Marts can be directly accessed from a frontage road -- and most are accessed directly from roads very similar to Burnet Rd. and Anderson Lane. Example here. Be careful to plug all the addresses into Google Maps - many roads with "Hwy" in the name are in fact just major arterials - with frequent traffic lights, cross streets, etc. For instance, the Wal-Mart in Delray Beach, when accessed from the closest 'highway', requires a drive of about 2 miles on one major arterial roadway, then a turn onto a second major arterial roadway, then a short drive, and then another turn into the store lot.)

(** - 'highway' is a definition not frequently used by transportation planners. The common usage here in Texas would be either freeways - with or without frontage roads - or rural routes with limited cross traffic - neither one of which obviously includes Burnet Rd or Anderson Lane, although Burnet at one point in history was a 'highway'. In my case, I prefer to use the limitation of access as the qualifier - since the roads here in Austin which people want to keep the big boxes out on are essentially all limited-access roadways with frontage roads).

You can also use this "plug the address into Google Maps" process to disprove the fallacy that a Wal-Mart at Northcross would be particularly close to single-family residences. For instance, consider this one in West Boca Raton. (Yes, "Hwy" in the name, but look at the satellite image and you see it's a major arterial roadway - lots of cross streets and traffic lights).

This entry was posted in the following categories: Austin , Transportation , Urban Design , When Neighborhoods Go Bad

Comments

At least here in Wisconsin, I think of a freeway and frontage road combination as something found out where the corn and cows grow. And where, half-way in between cities 20 miles apart, there would be no public transit anyway. Downtown the freeways are mostly elevated, ugly but at least out of the way. Further out they do divide the street network, does that make whatever parallel street is nearby a 'frontage' or do you have a different sort of thing in mind?

Nope, frontage roads have to have ramps to/from the main freeway. If they don't, they're just roads that happen to run parallel to the freeway.

Why do you think that the current traffic infrastructure at Burnet and Anderson is sufficient to handle a Walmart Supercenter?

Because the TIA vetted by city staff shows that there's plenty of additional capacity on all roadways and intersections in the area - more than enough to handle the added vehicular traffic. Burnet/Anderson, contrary to what people are saying, is a very underutilized center-city intersection - sure, if you compare by strictly suburban standards, it seems tight at rush hour, but the traffic is nothing compared to 38th, 6th, Lamar, Guadalupe, etc.

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