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Something Doesn’t Add Up With the Whole Foods Traffic Study

On Wednesday, the Summit County Council is further examining whether a development that will house Whole Foods on Landmark Drive, across from Ruby Tuesday, should be allowed. If you are interested in the topic, I would encourage you to read the traffic study that was performed by Hales Engineering. Traffic appears to be the major holdup (along with affordable housing) to enabling a new Whole Foods at this location. Ultimately the study concludes that the new Whole Foods-based development is superior to what was allowed on the land previously. They conclude that it is safer, has better traffic operations, and it improves “alternative mode accessibility.” Therefore, it is better than what is currently allowed at the site.

Yet, there are a few questions with this analysis:

  1. There is no consideration of the joint impact of the new school at Ecker Hill that will become operational at the same time as this development. It’s true that it probably makes estimating traffic harder, but it doesn’t change the fact that traffic patterns on Landmark drive will be significantly altered once the school is in place. Since, the county does not HAVE to agree to this change, we need to make sure that all information is accounted for before we make altering decisions.
  2. If you read through the analysis and get to the end, you may, like me, think the traffic study will say that the new Whole Foods option is a worse option than currently exists. But it does not. The new proposal is better for traffic, according to the study. It makes me wonder who paid for the study. Perhaps, though, something has been lost in just reading the powerpoint.
  3. The traffic study cites that additions, as part of the new agreement, will make the road safer. Perhaps I’ve missed it, but I don’t see many accidents there now. Likewise, I’m sure that if they reverted to the original developer’s agreement, there will still be changes. These safety additions (like a speed bump raised cross walk) could likely be added to the existing agreement in exchange for a few concessions (if necessary). So, I don’t view this new agreement as the only way to ensure that Landmark Drive is safe.
  4. The study cites being part of the Kimball Junction bus circulator, having van pool parking, hiking, and adding bike share as benefits. As for the bus circulator, most people don’t use a bus for grocery shopping. As for a van pool, I suppose you may have 16 people driving into and out of Kimball Junction to share a ride to Salt Lake. As for bike share, what percentage of people in Park City who want to ride a bike, don’t have one? If they don’t, are they going to “rent” a bike and ride it from Whole Foods into Park City to go to work? I just don’t get it. Do these things even register at a scale that even slightly contribute to solving transportation problems? Or do they just sound good? Does this really even relate to whether a Whole Foods should be on Landmark drive?
  5. County Council member Roger Armstrong said something interesting regarding the new hotel on Highway 224 (across from Soaring Wings) a few years back. While the case was made that a hotel typically has less traffic than a restaurant (which was what the land was approved for… before the hotel), Mr Armstrong questioned whether the hotel would have less traffic, in reality, than what was approved there. I took it as him comparing what was there then, an open field with the potential for a restaurant sometime, with a hotel that would be built for sure. If you look on 224, you’ll see a hotel that will likely open in the spring. There will be traffic associated with it. There is also the huge structure that makes the location look much less residential in nature. Would they have built a restaurant by now? Next year? Probably not. If not, there is no new traffic. It’s the same thing here. If the developer could have stuck to the original agreement, they likely would have. So, we should really be comparing the traffic of a Whole Foods with the traffic of an empty parking lot (at least for now) and whether the concept works.

As I’ve stated before, I’m all for a new Whole Foods. I was graciously invited to their envisioning session on the new store, even though I had criticized some parts of the idea. I found the Whole Foods people to be very thoughtful and caring about the community. I currently don’t frequent Whole Foods much as it makes me a little “aggro.” It’s too small, aisles are cramped, generally other customers look like the are about ready to run me over, and the nicest people you’ll find in the store work there. That said, I love the product and their concept.

I don’t know if this is or isn’t the right spot for a new Whole Foods, but I hope the analysis is done using information that matters and not what just sounds good.


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