Skeptics Ask Huntsville to Find Independent Wal-Mart Traffic Study Firm

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - The Midtown Huntsville Association, charged by Huntsville City Councilman Bill Kling to find a suitable firm to conduct a second traffic study on the impact of a new Wal-Mart on Memorial Parkway traffic, has recommended that an independent firm be found that has no political or financial ties to either Alabama or Wal-Mart.

"Over the past several weeks, there have been numerous concerns raised about the locating of a Wal-Mart adjacent to the lower Piedmont, Mayfair, and Fleming-Westbury neighborhoods. The residents of these neighborhoods have raised numerous concerns about noise, crime, lighting, parking capacity, and especially traffic," said Kling.

The original traffic study, performed by Skipper Consulting and paid for by Wal-Mart, found that a new Wal-Mart at the proposed location at the Mason Plaza shops, just south of Parkway Place Mall, would not overload Parkway traffic.

Director of Urban Development Shane Davis, looking for a firm to review the data collected by Skipper Consulting and conduct an independent traffic study, said in an email to Kling and the Midtown Association that they had received a bid from Volkert & Associates, an engineering firm with offices in Alabama and Tennessee.

Midtown Huntsville Association member Matthew Schmitz, however, objected to Volkert & Associates' bid, saying that they "are more politically connected in Alabama than George Wallace in the 1960's."

Schmitz went on to claim that Volkert & Associates are a long time partner of Skipper Consulting, the firm that conducted the original study financed by Wal-Mart.

"The further the City can distance itself from perceived connections to the "Good Ol Boy" network the better everyone will accept the results," said Schmitz in an email to Kling and the Midtown Huntsville Association.

"If the neighborhood does not support the firm, the residents will not support the results," said Kling.

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