Huntsville Hires UAH Professor to Review Wal-Mart-Funded Traffic Study of Proposed Mason Plaza site

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HUNTSVILLE, Al. (WHNT) - The city has hired a UAH professor to review a traffic study that found Memorial Parkway could handle the extra traffic from a new Wal-Mart Supercenter at Mason Plaza.

Dr. Michael Anderson is charging the city $7,400 to provide a second opinion on the study by Skipper Consulting. Anderson has already begun his review and could be finished by the end of this week.

City councilman Bill Kling says Wal-Mart will wait on requesting a building permit until the results come in.

"I think the neighborhood came up with a very good choice," says Kling. "Dr. Anderson who's local and we're looking forward to seeing what those results are going to be."

Members of the Midtown Huntsville Association, comprised largely of residents of the Piedmont neighborhood behind Mason Plaza, are skeptical of the Skipper study because Wal-Mart paid for it.

The association originally asked the city to hire VRPA Technologies to perform a second, independent traffic study. Mayor Tommy Battle objected to using VRPA because of the cost – estimated at more than $40,000 – and the fact that it would take several weeks for the California-based engineering firm to become licensed to work in Alabama.

"The contract with Dr. Anderson is going to be about one fifth of what the contract with the other company would have been and he's going to be able to get it done on time so I think we are going to have some pretty good information to look at," says Kling.

Battle recommended hiring Mobile-based Volkert & Associates instead, but members of the association contend Volkert has too many business ties to Skipper Consulting.

"The neighborhood group was really looking for someone who was local, who was knowledgable, who was essentially independent of the city, or the original consultant or Wal-Mart," explains Anderson.

Anderson says he has been working since he received the study Friday to review parameters and inputs used by Skipper consulting.

"My job is to go in and look a the traffic study that was originally done by Skipper Consulting and make sure that Skipper really did follow basic, what would be respected, standard practices and to make sure there weren't any sort of items in there that were questionable."

If Anderson finds any discrepancies in the Skipper report, said Kling, state Senator Paul Sanford - a Piedmont neighborhood resident - has promised to quickly get that information into the hands of Alabama Department of Transportation officials.

"The residents should feel comfortable that what was done is what really is going to happen," says Anderson.

The proposed 150,000-square-foot Supercenter at Mason Plaza would replace Wal-Mart’s aging Drake Avenue store, which opened as a Kmart in 1972. Mason Plaza is on the east side of Memorial Parkway between Drake Avenue and Airport Road. Wal-Mart is leasing the 13.56-acre site from Bragg Development Properties.


  • Larry

    $7,400 for a week’s work? Pretty good for no overhead. 100% chance a review of the same data yields the same rubber stamp approval the City wants. Wal Mart will generate more revenue for the City than the Piedmont residents altogether. People are very stupid.

  • Branko Pezdi

    Left unmentioned in the artilce is what are Dr. Anderson’s qualifications? What does he teach? Does UAH have a Traffic Engineering department? Etc, etc.

  • Larry

    He is an Associate Professor of Civil Engineering. He teaches Traffic and Urban planning subjects.

    Not to belittle Dr. Anderson, but a local Associate Professor is hardly a renowned expert, and one wonders how those credentials command such a large fee for a quick review.

    Kling and Battle have done some effective grandstanding, obviously fooling the neighborhood reps, but there is a 100% chance of a Wal Mart at Mason Plaza. The city will not lose that revenue, their budget far exceeds present income, and they can’t afford to.

    Michael, Kling hasn’t actually done anything for you yet, wait for some results before you thank him too much. Lip service and a rubber stamp review at the cost of $7400 is all you’ve gotten so far.

    The existing store in the same area is not a traffic problem, and neither will this one be. At least now the useless overpass will get some use.

    Sorry, but the outcome here has already been decided, this is just a show for the homeowners, and apparently some have fallen for it. Wal Mart did not spend a fortune for acquisition and engineering without a nod from the City. Nobody wants a Wal Mart in their backyard, and they are in backyards everywhere.

    This is just an exercise in face saving. It’s all about the bottom line.

  • Larry

    Mason Plaza doesn’t contribute much in the way of sales tax either. The residents like it that way, but the city likes their sales tax, thus the 100% chance of approval for Wal Mart.

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