Sunday, August 13, 2017

Did the "Davidson Way" skew Exit 30 Hotel TIA?

A Transportation Impact Analysis (TIA) is required for various types of developments depending on their size.  They assess the impact of a new development and make recommendations for infrastructure improvements to mitigate those impacts.  They can be useful tools to ensure development does not externalize the costs onto taxpayers by forcing others to pick up the bill.

But what happens if the TIA is skewed from the start?  Unfortunately, it appears that could be the case with the TIA completed for the Exit 30 Hotel proposal.

aShortChronicle has uncovered via public records request information that raises several questions about the TIA completed for the Exit 30 hotel proposed next to the Community School of Davidson (CSD) on Griffith Street.

Now, people may assume that any skewing would come from the developer who pays for the TIA and that could of course happen.  To help prevent that, Town Hall picks the firm to do the TIA, but the developer pays for it.  One would think that should lower the chance for bias.

In the case of the Exit 30 Hotel proposal the skewing appears to come from Davidson Town Hall itself.

The hotel TIA was conducted in 2016.  Below are emails aShortChronicle came across as part of a public records request on the hotel project.  Note the underlined portions.

In this first one, the Town planning manager, Jason Burdett, is shopping for a firm to give a certain flavor to the assessment.

When a TIA is supposed to be an unbiased assessment, saying "the last thing we want" before it even starts is not a good thing.

Two days later Craig Lewis with Stantec responds.  Stantec has done a considerable amount of work for the Town in recent years.  Mr Lewis previously worked for the now closed local office of The Lawrence Group which also had done lots of work for the town.

After this email things moved quickly with Burdett contacting the recommended person at Stantec the next day.  The comment about "deflecting" citizen concerns via the ordinance is particularly interesting.

Stantec appears to have been selected as the firm for this TIA immediately after these exchanges as further emails show the town discussing all the parameters of the study and arranging for collecting traffic counts from the developer's other hotel in town, the Homewood Suites.  Those counts are used as a baseline for the new hotel.

And about those counts...

Regarding the traffic counts from the Homewood Suites, when might those have been collected?  While the TIA Report doesn't say, the public record indicates they were to be done the week of Nov 7 - Nov 11 2016.   That week just happened to include Election Day for the most anticipated election in recent U.S. history on Tuesday followed by Veterans Day on Friday Nov 11th.  As acknowledgement that this could be an issue the below exchange occurred.

So, while at least an effort was made to not do the counts when school was out, what is the likelihood that business travel might have been a little light that week - affecting the baseline counts from Homewood Suites?

So, after asking for a report that wouldn't recommend significant and costly road improvements and taking critical traffic measurements at a questionable time, not surprisingly the final TIA Report recommends no road related changes in the immediate vicinity of the hotel.  That is in spite of the fact that the most impacted intersection has its most impacted direction going from bad, yet acceptable, levels to very unacceptable failing levels.  Look at the Griffith Gateway Drive NB line underlined in red.  That is headed north bound on Davidson Gateway towards Griffith.

This shows that regardless of the development, whether it be the proposed hotel or the previously approved development on this site, this intersection north bound becomes almost impassable.  During drop off and pickup for school at CSD, Davidson Gateway backs up significantly.  Add in the proposed hotel parking scheme that ensures all the street parking in the area is full, and Davidson Gateway may be impassable in the south bound direction as well during these times.

Yet, the report makes no recommendations to do anything about this for cars.  It does say this however about sidewalks.

"Additional and/or improved sidewalks in the area will encourage pedestrian activity to and from the hotel, which may further reduce the amount of vehicular traffic to and from the hotel beyond what has been assumed in this study."

Rather than mitigating the impacts on traffic this development might bring, this feels more like planned gridlock.

1 comment:

  1. In many well-run organizations this would be cause for immediate dismissal