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New Wal-Mart may cause traffic woes for Funkstown

March 01, 2000|By DAN KULIN /Staff Writer

Opening a Wal-Mart Supercenter just across the Funkstown town line would add to the town's traffic woes and heighten the need for a long-discussed bypass, town officials and several area residents said Thursday.

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"Economically the Wal-Mart is a good thing, but our concern for years has been the traffic flow," said Funkstown Councilwoman Sharon Chirgott.

"The is going to make the traffic even worse," she said, echoing comments made by council members Richard Nigh and Lorraine Smith and the town's mayor.

"We'll be protesting pretty loud about this," said Smith, who said the town also needs on-ramps for Interstate 70.

The Funkstown officials said a bypass, which would divert traffic around downtown Funkstown, would ease the traffic brought on by a new Wal-Mart.

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Chirgott said a bypass would be a "saving grace."

"They're going to be an asset but they're going to have to help with traffic," Mayor Robert L. Kline said.

"The bypass sure would help," Kline said. "We have a good little town and I sure want to keep it that way."

For years local officials have discussed a Funkstown bypass, which would run north of Funkstown and connect Edgewood Drive near U.S. 40 in Hagerstown to Oak Ridge Drive west of Funkstown. But there are no plans to build the bypass.

Washington County Commissioner John L. Schnebly said he considered the bypass a "separate long-term project," from the Wal-Mart development. But he said the bypass becomes more necessary with each development project.

Kline said Town Hall received "calls galore," on Wednesday from Funkstown residents upset about plans to open a Wal-Mart Supercenter on 31.5 acres along Edgewood Drive in Hagerstown. The site is next to Twigg Cycles and near Funkstown.

"The traffic is bad now. They need to put that bypass in," said Al Pennywinkle Jr. who grew up in Funkstown and now lives near Fairplay.

"You can't get through Funkstown now with the traffic," said Funkstown resident Paul Krouse, 79.

Wyatt Development Co. of Aiken, S.C., submitted plans for the 208,720-square-foot Wal-Mart Supercenter to the Hagerstown Planning Department on Monday. The development also would include a 30,260-square-foot building for retail stores.

Plans for the development are being considered by state, county and city engineering and roads departments. The plan has to be approved by the Hagerstown Planning Commission before the developers can apply for building permits.

City Planning Director Ric Kautz said the city Planning Commission cannot reject the plan just because it's unpopular with some people.

Kautz said the commission can require on- and off-site improvements including road improvements, "so long as they're related to the project."

"They can't be arbitrary or capricious," Kautz said.

A traffic study paid for by the development company proposes widening parts of Edgewood Drive in front of the site to make room for turn lanes. The study also recommends installing a new traffic signal on Edgewood Drive at one of two proposed entrances for the development.

Under current plans, the developers would build a new road along the property line next to Twigg Cycles. The road would go to the end of their property line and head to Hebb Road, but would not connect to Hebb Road.

City Engineer Bruce Johnston said Tuesday it is too early to say if any other road or intersection improvements may be required.

Road improvements would be paid for by the developer, Johnston said.

Hagerstown Mayor Robert E. Bruchey II said Wednesday that the new road should be extended all the way to Hebb Road.

"It's not final (that the road will dead end). We're still in discussions," the mayor said.

Bruchey said improvements need to be made at the Dual Highway and Edgewood Drive intersection. The mayor said the heavy traffic at that intersection is largely due to development north of the intersection along Robinwood Drive, and the county government should help pay for those improvements.

Another massive Wal-Mart Supercenter is already under construction at the Centre at Hagerstown shopping plaza along U.S. 40 next to Interstate 81.

The existing Wal-Mart on Wesel Boulevard in Hagerstown, which is about half the size of the planned supercenters, will close in June when the Wal-Mart at the Centre opens, a company spokeswoman said.

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