February 29 2000 City Council Minutes
ST. GEORGE CITY COUNCIL MINUTES
FEBRUARY 29, 2000, 5:00 P.M.
CITY COUNCIL CHAMBERS
Mayor Daniel McArthur
Councilmember Sharon Isom
Councilmember Suzanne Allen
Councilmember Rod Orton
Councilmember Bob Whatcott
Councilmember Larry Gardner
City Manager Gary Esplin
Deputy City Attorney Ron Read
City Recorder Gay Cragun
Mayor McArthur called the meeting to order and welcomed all in attendance.
DISCUSSION CONCERNING ZONE CHANGE FOR WALMART:
City Traffic Engineer Aron Baker presented a video of the results of the traffic analysis for the proposed Walmart superstore. Walmart has performed a traffic impact study at the request of the City. The traffic impact study was performed by Sear Brown Group, and after months of City staff review, staff is confident with the recommendations contained therein. The study indicates net total one-way trips of 8,410 vehicles. This will increase traffic at the intersection by 40%. Staff also analyzed the fastest route to the new store, and determined that using the back way via Tonaquint Drive is 1.5 miles longer and will add 3-4 minutes to the trip. Staff estimates that only 5% of trips to the new Walmart store will be via the back way. Mr. Baker advised the roundabouts will be designed to accommodate a 105' long double tractor trailer, which is as long as the State will allow on the Interstate. Walmart, however, will not be using trucks of this size to deliver goods to the new store, but rather will only use 69' foot single trailer trucks, and estimates there will be 6-7 trucks daily delivering to their store, mostly at night.
Councilmember Isom advised she sees triple trailer trucks traveling the freeway, and asked if they were also limited to 105' in length. She was advised they were limited to 105' in length.
Blaine Imlay advised his trucks are 107' in length and do not swivel in the middle like other trucks, and therefore will not make the same turns as other trucks. He expressed concern his trucks would not be able to negotiate the proposed roundabouts.
Aron Baker advised the roundabout aprons were designed to withstand truck wheels without damage.
Mr. Imlay advised his trailers were sometimes only 2-3" off the ground, and if the trailer hit the apron, he wanted to be sure his trucks would not get stuck. He typically hauls 230,000 lbs. on his trailers.
Mr. Baker replied there would be ample room for a large truck to take a wider path through the roundabout and not high center on the curb.
Councilmember Whatcott inquired if the roundabouts were being specifically designed for the 69' long Walmart trucks.
Mr. Baker replied that they were.
Councilmember Whatcott inquired what would happen if Columbia hospital sold its property to another commercial development and trucks larger than 69' in length were used.
Mr. Baker replied the trucks could circle 360? to enter.
Steve Holt commented his fuel trucks are a standard 105' in length.
Mr. Baker informed that the proposed roundabout design will be about 230' in diameter, with a center circle diameter of 170'. There will be a 30' driving width inside the circle. Mr. Baker stated the proposed roundabout can be arranged to fit into the current right-of-way, but work may have to be done on the on-ramps. This work will be coordinated with UDOT.
Councilmember Gardner inquired if the roundabout would affect the gas pumps at the Tri-Mart.
Mr. Baker replied the roundabout will not encroach into the gas pump area.
Councilmember Gardner asked UDOT representatives if they agreed to reconfigure the on-ramps as proposed.
Matt Christensen, Traffic and Safety Studies Engineer for UDOT, replied they have studied the footprint, and preliminarily feel the roundabout is feasible within the right-of-way, with minor impacts to the landscaping at the Tri-Mart. Adjustments will be made, if necessary, to pull the roundabout closer to the interchange area to obtain the angles necessary to make the roundabout work. UDOT would prefer to do that rather than encroach further into private property.
Aron Baker advised City staff is more comfortable with using roundabouts than signals at the intersection because roundabouts have greater capacity than two signals side by side. Pacific Land Design/Walmart showed a model of the signals and how they would work, but staff would eventually rather have the roundabouts on each side of the interchange because they would work better than two signals so close together. With regard to pedestrian safety, many studies in California have shown that pedestrians are more cautious when using a roundabout, and there are no studies to substantiate roundabouts are more dangerous for pedestrians. With signals, there are 32 areas for conflict within the intersection, but that number is limited to the number of entrances in a roundabout, which would to amount to eight in this case, as opposed to 64 for two signals placed side by side. Accidents within a roundabout would also occur at slower speeds than at a signalized intersection. He reported that to date, no accidents have been reported at the roundabout on Main Street. Pacific Land Design estimates the cost of constructing the west roundabout at $550,000, the teardrop roundabout at $375,000, and other improvements to the intersection and frontage roads at $385,000.
Councilmember Gardner inquired why there was a disparity between the cost estimates to build these roundabouts, and the projected costs of $6,000,000 to $8,000,000 to build the roundabout at the corner of Sunset and Bluff.
Mr. Baker explained costs to build the roundabout at the corner of Sunset and Bluff include significant money for future costs, plus four years of interest, and costs to obtain rights-of-way. Walmart can build the roundabouts as a part of their project at a great savings.
Councilmember Gardner inquired of Walmart representatives if they were willing to commit the funds necessary to build the roundabouts.
A Walmart representative replied not until a final design was had, and the preliminary figures were based on a conceptual design. Bids for the project would have to be let, and they could not guarantee what the costs would be.
Councilmember Gardner inquired of UDOT representatives if they were comfortable with a private contractor building the roundabout.
A UDOT representative responded a private contractor would have to go through the process and meet all UDOT standards, and UDOT reserves the right to make sure those standards are met. He advised that UDOT does quite a bit of partnering on other projects.
Councilmember Orton inquired of UDOT representatives the cost of building the roundabout at the Washington exit.
A UDOT representative replied the estimate is $3,000,000. However, it is still in the design process and will not be bid until next year. The issues are different, however, between the Washington roundabout and the proposed roundabout for Walmart. The diameter of the Washington exit roundabout will also be smaller than the proposed roundabout for Walmart, but not much smaller.
Councilmember Gardner advised in previous discussions it was suggested that the traffic lanes under the overpass could be enlarged to three lanes. He inquired if it would be possible to saw off some of the abutment and make four lanes.
A UDOT representative replied that it could be done.
City Engineer Dave Demas advised this very thing was done under the 100 South overpass.
Traffic Engineer Aron Baker advised City staff feel a bypass ramp off the I-15 to the project would be an important component of the project, however, this was not included in the sketch of the proposed Walmart project.
A UDOT representative advised a break in the right-of-way would have to meet federal requirements and would take a long time for approval. However, UDOT would entertain a bypass road if it were close to the intersection and could be encompassed as part of the intersection.
Mr. Baker advised the issue of access off Brigham Road to the Tri-Mart Chevron would have to addressed. Mr. Baker showed the video taken at the Walmart Distribution Center of trucks negotiating the proposed 230' roundabout.
A man from the audience commented that new drivers unfamiliar with the intersection and roundabout will be using it, not always the same experienced truck drivers.
City Engineer Dave Demas replied that truck drivers are professionals, and the middle area of the roundabout will be designed so that it can be mounted.
Councilmember Gardner inquired if Mr. Imlay would be willing to demonstrate his truck negotiating a 230' roundabout.
Walmart representatives advised this would not be appropriate to do on Walmart property, and suggested a large parking lot elsewhere, or possibly the airport.
Troy Torgeson, UDOT regional traffic engineer, advised UDOT will require 20 year traffic projections to the year 2021, not just the five year projections the City required. UDOT will not have any final comments on the feasibility study for the roundabout until final figures have been reviewed and design criteria meets UDOT and federal highway requirements. The intersection analysis for traffic signaling indicates the level of services is acceptable to the year 2006, but if it was projected to the year 2021, he felt sure the level of service would be inadequate.
Dale Peterson, Region 4 Director for UDOT, advised Region 4, which comprises the southern half of Utah, receives 1/4 of the total dollars outside of the I-15 corridor, and a process needs to be followed to identify a priority for needs. He advised he is a strong advocate for partnering. There is one difficulty, however, and that is timing in developing a transportation improvement program which is a five year program, two years for concept development, and three years for project funding. There is already a large list of unfunded needs, and the challenge is how to balance needs against funds available. At this point UDOT could not commit to funding. However, the Transportation Commission is scheduled to meet in St. George on March 16, and he will discuss this project with them.
Councilmember Gardner inquired if the five year time line could be accelerated.
Mr. Peterson replied it depended, as limited cases have been accelerated, but when something is moved forward, something else has to be moved back. A substantial savings in the cost of a project, however, might be justification for accelerating a project. He will discuss this with the Commission.
Mayor McArthur commented it was mentioned in a previous meeting that perhaps UDOT would consider a reimbursement agreement if funds were not immediately available.
Mr. Peterson replied a reimbursement agreement would be considered on its own merits, and would have to be approved by the Commission.
Mack Christensen, Traffic Operations Director for UDOT, advised that as a result of a cursory review of the proposals for signals vs. roundabouts, it has been the experience of UDOT with other locations on frontage roads so close to an interchange, that signals would be a real problem. To signalize a frontage road that close to the interchange would be a mistake, and roundabouts are a better solution. He stated he felt there were ways to make the ramp fit, but a 20 year design for additional volume generation is needed which can be analyzed as part of the funding approval process. UDOT does not build interchange projects to accommodate a five year plan.
Councilmember Gardner inquired how long it would take to regenerate the
five year plan to a 20 year plan.
Grant Shultz of Sear Brown Group advised it would take a couple of weeks to regenerate the report.
Mack Christensen advised there are special permit vehicles which travel the interstate, however, they are a small percentage, and UDOT does not design facilities to accommodate these vehicles as it is not cost effective. It would be possible, however, to run one of these special permit vehicles through the roundabout model and see if it would fit.
Councilmember Gardner inquired what happened when a truck found itself in a confined intersection with no way to get through it.
Mr. Christensen replied drivers usually understand constraints of intersections, and could possibly cross over into a second lane. He stated that roundabouts are usually more friendly than some of the normal diamond interchanges. However, UDOT would insist the roundabout be designed properly with proper angles and radiuses.
Blaine Imlay advised his trucks are routed by the State of Utah to use certain streets, and as soon as the roundabout is open and if the State does not allow him to use it and he will then have to use River Road. SunRoc and Western Rock will also have to use River Road for all their large equipment.
Councilmember Gardner stated he would hate to see these large trucks and equipment routed along River Road because they could not use the roundabout. He suggested the roundabout be built to accommodate trucks as large as Mr. Imlay?s.
Chris Calloway from Walmart listed ten examples of other communities with trade area populations of 100,000 with two superstores. Some of those locations were Napa Idaho, Caldwell Idaho, Conway Arkansas, Fayetteville Arkansas, Jonesbrook Arkansas, Paduca Kentucky, Hadesburg Mississippi, Anderson South Carolina, Billings Montana, and Pueblo Colorado. He advised Walmart believes it is important to place stores close together for the convenience of shoppers. With regard to the traffic plan, the City requested only a five year plan, and it was provided. It indicates signals would mitigate the increased traffic. Walmart is more than willing to cooperate with the City in the roundabouts instead, but does not want to be penalized by being asked to do something that is not asked of every other business in the community. Walmart has already paid for a five year study and should not be expected to pay for a 20 year study. While Walmart has committed to contributing the funds necessary for the traffic lights, it is not prepared to entirely pay for the roundabouts, and it would be unfair to ask them to do so. However, they are willing to cooperate to work on a plan for a long term solution. He advised Walmart does not currently have plans to build a store in Mesquite, does not have any land under contract in Mesquite, but would not say they would never consider locating a store there. He advised that Cedar City was not used when calculating the population base to justify two superstores in the St. George area.
Councilmember Whatcott advised that Walmart would have had to use the population from Mesquite in its calculations of population needed for two superstores in the St. George area.
A unidentified woman in the audience commented the Walmart in Paduca destroyed the residential area. She advised she did not like Walmart?s attitude, and is afraid placement of a Walmart in Bloomington will destroy another beautiful residential area. She suggested the Walmart be located at the Atkinville interchange.
Mayor McArthur advised the City Council can only consider the application before it. He stated that in past meetings, allegations were made that the traffic numbers were incorrect.
Aron Baker advised that the numbers used previously were from old manuals and are lower than represented at that time.
Councilmember Whatcott commented that typically a driver will take the shortest route to his or her destination, and as the interchange builds up, the back way may become the shortest route to Walmart from west St. George. He inquired if this was factored into the study.
Mr. Baker responded that the study completed by Grant Shultz did not take this into account, but traffic is increasing all over St. George and traffic patterns are being altered everywhere.
Steve Holt advised he did not want to hinder the Walmart project, but 800 trucks a day visit his facilities, and Western Rock is planning on moving their entire operation to the new industrial park in four months, and they all must be able to access the facilities. He asked the City Council to make it right.
Councilmember Gardner advised his concern was not the impact traffic would have on the intersection, but that it be able to accommodate trucks.
A gentleman in the audience from Western Rock advised his trucks would make 400-500 trips a day through that intersection, and it must be made large enough to accommodate them. He stated that when the trucks are only 3" from the ground, they can get high centered and stuck in the middle of a roundabout.
Councilmember Whatcott commented that Western Rock?s figures were much higher than those given to the City Council a few months ago. He inquired how much the roundabout needed to be expanded to accommodate the use of everyone who will have an impact on the interchange.
Councilmember Allen stated the proposed roundabout needed to be usable for large trucks so they were not forced to use River Road.
Raymond Kuehne commented that the City Council, after considering engineering concerns, should not forget the residents of the subdivision surrounding the proposed project, and if the project ?fits.? While Mr. Kuehne did not want to deny the property owner his right to develop his property, the development should also be done according to standards that will reduce the traffic load in such a way that it does not create additional problems for the residents who also have the right to be able to enjoy their property and have reasonable access.
This item will again be scheduled on the City Council agenda for March 2, 2000.
The meeting adjourned at 7:00 p.m.
Gay Cragun, City Recorder