Can Wal-Mart Pave its Way to Acceptance?

Friday’s Oregonian reports that Beaverton has outlined a list of road improvements Wal-Mart would need to fund to meet standards for its proposed Cedar Hills location.

The list includes some 16 off-site improvements. Wal-Mart seems happy with the list even though no one has added up the price tag yet. Some of the items include:

  • A new westbound lane on Southwest Barnes Road between Baltic Avenue and the Oregon 217 intersection.
  • Extension of the northbound right turn lane on the Oregon 217 ramp to Barnes Road.
  • A new traffic signal at the intersection of Southwest Cedar Hills Boulevard and the eastbound on- and off-ramps of U.S. 26.
  • Widening Barnes Road to two through lanes plus a bicycle lane in each direction between Cedar Hills Boulevard and 117th Avenue.
  • Widening Cedar Hills Boulevard north of Barnes Road to add a lane in each direction.
  • Widening to add a northbound lane on Cedar Hills Boulevard between the westbound off-ramp from U.S. 26 and Barnes Road.
  • Contributing toward a future underpass for pedestrians and bicyclists under the westbound on-ramp to U.S. 26 from Cedar Hills Boulevard.

Wal-Mart opponents argue that no set of improvements can effectively deal with the 7,400 daily trips the store will generate.

Which prompts me to ask the question, if we accept that big box retail must go somewhere (and I know that not everyone would agree with the supposition), where in the transportation network does it belong?

14 responses to “Can Wal-Mart Pave its Way to Acceptance?”

  1. That’s awesome. Wal-Mart should and probably would have no problem with this.

    Why don’t they put more direct costs to businesses in this way? That’s what I’d like to know. It makes complete sense to put the responsibility of getting one’s customers to and from their establishment without impacting (at least directly) the local traffic flows and immediate housing.

    This would be a good way to keep certain businesses out of an area too, because it makes the real costs more obvious.

    Another one of my personal policy that people/comapnies should pay directly and immediately for what they use.

    :) kewlness.

  2. I have a little bit of fear that if we may this purely “user pays”, large corporate interests with deep pockets will wind up deciding what our transportation system looks like by deciding what they choose to pay for.

  3. Hmm… this rubs me the wrong way. So, Washington County is going to not only widen its roads to make driving around easier, but it’s also going to allow a Walmart in and let them pay for all the wider roads? What happened to densification and the promotion of alternatives to the automobile?

    At least there are some bike lanes thrown into the mix.

    I’m conflicted on Wal-Mart near MAX:

    * On the one hand, I don’t think that Wal-Mart would be a good fit for a station area, since they typically have a ton of parking, which takes up a lot of valuable land that could otherwise be used for housing, offices, other employment, and other retail uses.

    * On the other hand, if Wal-Mart is willing to build a facility on the ground floor of a multiple-story mixed-use development, with structured parking (preferably underground), integrated into a mixed-use TOD community… then I suppose it would be best to have it located near MAX so some people, and especially the employees, could get there easily on transit.

  4. I think it’s an issue of scale. Grocery stores along LRT, like News Seasons on Interstate (even the somewhat bigger Fred Meyer) seem to work pretty well, and anchor vibrant areas.

    I’m not sure it scales up to Wal-Mart. I think you would have to put a Wal-Mart somewhere that could be served by autos as well as LRT, maybe someplace like Gateway.

  5. Its good for developers to pay for system improvements, but we have to look at what we are getting out of the “improvements” listed here. The benefit is increased capacity, but it comes at the cost of:

    1) Higher traffic volumes
    2) Higher emissions
    3) More Noise
    4) Busier Streets
    5) Less pedestrian and bicycle access, with the exception of the underpass. You could argue that the bike lanes improve conditions for cyclists, but adding an additional through-lane more than negates this.

    System development charges should contribute toward regional solutions, not detract from them. Wal-mart will be spending a few million to make the site operate acceptably for cars, but the improvements will only make things worse long-term.

  6. I’m sure Wal-Mart would gladly pave a freeway to each of our doors in exchange for our undying support of their unethical business practices and employee exploitation. I’m still not interested. I’ll pay a little bit more and support my local economy.

  7. Why not a requirement that all WalMart employees get TriMet Passport annual passes? I think the TriMet 62 line goes by there, connecting to MAX at Sunset TC. I fault Wash. County for just focusing on autos.
    Even in Portland…on the new Interstate MAX line, Fred Meyer and New Seasons put there parking in front, so transit riders get to walk through the parking lot. Neither project included any housing.

  8. “I have a little bit of fear that if we may this purely “user pays”, large corporate interests with deep pockets will wind up deciding what our transportation system looks like by deciding what they choose to pay for.”

    That in and of itself is so idealogically wrong.

    So if I have 40 billion dollars and I decide that I want to build high speed rail for Seattle to Portland it’s not a good idea? If I have 50 billion dollars and I decide to expand some roads (of course with city permission) add a bike lane and stick a big warehouse store that is wrong?

    Why is it people act like Corporate interests are not in people’s interests? The corporate interests that are so commonly attacked here in PDX enable PDX to be the way it is. Corporate interests (HP, Intel, Nike, Wal-Mart, etc) are the one’s who provide us cheap stuff and wages. They provide the pay, the matching social security and other mess that enables Portland to have such a high standard of living (and generally be spoiled).

    If anything it should DEFINATELY be more user pays. It is more representative of market demand – i.e. what people want is what people pay for. I’m pro-transit, but if it means at the expense of peoples rights and real economic development than I’m against it.

    The thing is mass transit should be something that is always of interest to corporate entities, only in the last 50-60 years has it not been BECAUSE of Government involvement. The Government needs to work with these companies to enable them to expand and grow the transportation network without taking a grand loss (which is usually what happens these days).

    On top of all that there is a simple economic rule which will severely limit future transportation growth unless the Governments (re: Tri-Met) start finding ways to encourage more direct financial and economic means of encouraging actual transportation growth.

    Government money is NOT worth the same thing as corporate money. One is stagnant in value, one is growth based.

    If Portland wants it’s transportation network to continue to expand, to have money for it, corporations, private interests, and “growth based” economic derived cash flow MUST be used to build up the network. Tri-met/Portland can’t just keep using federal money and city money to dump into this problem because no matter what, there will never be enough to really build extensively.

    Just look at what private money built originally in Portland. Multiple streetcar lines, multiple points of service. Multiple TODs (as they’re called now). All of this done by the vast majority by the private citizen & these “corporations”/”trusts”.

    These corporations (especially Wal-Mart) don’t need attacked as they so commonly are, they need worked with. If they’re doing something wrong show them a better way to do it and make money, show them a common sense and reasonble business reason and they will.

    The whole reason the company forced it’s hand to lower prices was because that was what was demanded by the people.

    To attack Wal-Mart is in the end just an attack on the other 99% of America that isn’t located here in PDX. Personally, I don’t like attacking my other fellow Americans. There has to be a better way.

  9. Adron, Wal-Mart is not the issue, but it tends to be the test case because they build SO large. I think I have two issues:

    1) Local governments are mandated to develop balanced transportation plans. But if developers get to cherry pick which elements of the plan they fund, then we build an unbalanced system nonetheless. Perhaps Beaverton should have required Wal-Mart to pay for a certain number of TriMet service hours annually to serve the development?

    2) We’re moving (and I mean both individuals and corporations) from being citizens to being consumers of government services. This case is all about Wal-Mart negotiating a price for the services they want. So what happened to contributing to the Commonweal? Citizens pay for things they’ll never use because they no it’s good for society as a whole. In the new model, if you can’t afford the services you need, you just get to suffer. That’s not the society I want to live in!

  10. Adron:

    umm, the reason we don’t have businesses involved in transit is because they all dumped it in the 1970s as it was unprofitable. Auto useage is so subsidized in this country and roads so numerous that its so convenient to drive, transit can’t compete.

    Of course, now that the population of the US has doubled, and cities are getting so huge that you can’t build enough roads for everyone, things are finally changing. But its going to be a very long time before companies actively invest in transportation… plus a major precedent has been set in the Western World for government investment and providing transportation infrastructure.

    Do you know how difficult it would be to prviately buy up right-of-ways in the Willamette Valley to build a new high speed rail line? Likely cost you several billion $ just for a 100 mile segment. Plus the construction costs.

    Most companies don’t even want to deal with all the litigation, rules and laws imposed by each municipality and government on such an endeavor… especially when, in this market, it would definitely fail. By comparison, even Paul Allen’s blazer arena deal has failed (startup costs/interest rates too high) – and he has the only professional sports team in the state!

  11. Adron, Justin, and others.

    Just to let you know, I am a WM hourly employee in the portland area. All the Associates I know (who have valid Driver’s licences) own cars. Heck, I’m willing to bet mine is nicer than 90% of the population out there. Its a brand spankin new WRX. My wife and I make the payments, I have fantastic health care benefits, and I get paid less than I’d like, but who doesn’t. I get paid quite well for what I do. I’m a Certified Optician. I got a 50 cent raise for getting certified, but its not like my pay was much lower when I was a cashier. I get raises every year and have opportunities for more. WM contributes to my 401k and gives me a reduced stock price. They automatically pay for the first 50 grand of life insurance. The company is great to work for. Don’t believe me, get a job there. But stop talking about WM as some big unethical behemoth. Size and morality have nothing to do with each other. WM is a good local citizen. Many associates volunteer their time, and we are encouraged and often supported in our efforts by the store. Check out the site and click the “Community”, “Environment”, and “People” tabs. No other retailer can even come close to WM when it comes to environmental responsibility. Same goes for assisting the local community. Y’all just need to see both sides of the story. My name is Dwight, come visit me at the Clackamas store and see how much we like working for WM. I am not brainwashed, I know I can have a career within this company and that I’ll get more educated in the process. By the way, I am a college educated man, so its not like WM is just helping me get my GED. WM is paying for me to continue my education and gives me competitive pay increases as I increase my qualifications! Sounds like a good deal to me.

    Whether WM comes to Beaverton is not a question for the ages. It come down to this: Do we let ourselves continue to be gouged at the grocery store the way we do at the pump (Average mark up provides for profit after wages and taxes to be about 20-50%)? Or do we encourage competition thus forcing businesses to become more efficient and responsive to our needs as consumers? If you don’t consider yourself to be a consumer then you’ll keep yelling about where WM builds next But then you can’t buy a computer anyhow, so you’d better be either A. responding to this at the library, or B. leaving a CITY/STATE/COUNTRY FILLED WITH AND DEFINED BY THE CONSUMERISM you hate so much! Enjoy Scandinavia!

  12. Interesting.

    Dwight – I don’t doubt that there are many employees who work for Wal-Mart who both enjoy their jobs, but also are treated well and have a good pay.

    However, there are many instances that have been reported where Wal-Mart has actively screwed their employees. Maybe not in most cases, but it certainly does happen.

    That being said, I believe that super-sized warehouses masking themselves as ‘stores’ don’t really scale well into the urban fabric. This is my biggest gripe: if you don’t own a car – and I know many people who live in Portland (the city) who don’t, so they cannot shop at big box retailers.

    Additionally, I do not consider myself a ‘consumer.’ This is what I consumer, as do most people in the world:

    more food

    I don’t eat plastic, metals, cars, or clothing. I may BUY them, and throw them away after I get bored with them, but that’s hardly [i]consuming.[/i] Read William McDonough’s book ‘cradle to cradle’ for a different perspective.

    I would prefer to be considered a citizen of the United States of America. Besides the obvious, why would I want to be identified as a mindless, ravaging, unthinking ‘thing’ destroying the world – or an enlightened, philosophical person who is engaged in the civic duty that is our country? I think the choice is obvious.

    The relevance this has to Wal-Mart is actually not to use it as an excuse/reason to attack companies, but to point out that as citizens, we do have a moral obligation to raise issue when we believe there is injustice in the world. To simply say let nature take care of things – Darwinism – in a society is, well – too much & shows irresponsibility on the part of the citizens of this country who are lax in their civic duty.

    When’s the last time you or your family engaged in public dialogue in your community? There are more to people than just shopping.

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