Wal-Mart Stores Inc. has put its proposed new Coeur dAlene store on hold while it waits for the Idaho Transportation Department to finish a traffic study of U.S. 95.
The company cant carry on with its planning work for the store, which it wants to build at the southeast corner of U.S. 95 and Aqua Avenue, until the state finishes its study, says Amy Hill, a Reno, Nev.-based spokeswoman for the giant Bentonville, Ark.-based retailer.
Its conceivable that the Transportation Department would, as a result of its study, conclude that no new access points should be allowed on the congested highway, Hill says. As a precaution, Wal-Mart has begun scouting out alternate sites in the Coeur dAlene area, she says.
Were reviewing other options just in case we run into a worst-case scenario, she says. It could mean a new location.
Wal-Mart announced plans last spring to build a 220,000-square-foot store on the 24-acre site in north Coeur dAlene. Hill says that property is under contract pending approval of permits.
The current development schedule calls for work to begin this spring, with the store opening in 2003. The hold imposed by the traffic study has not put us off that much, Hill says.
Mike Porcelli, a traffic engineer in the Transportation Departments district office in Coeur dAlene, says the agencys study should be done by March. The department is looking at traffic congestion on an about 20-mile stretch of U.S. 95.
In this phase of the study, the agency hopes to identify several preferred solutions to traffic congestion. Some proposals contained in earlier phases of the study include turning U.S. 95 into an elevated expressway, moving it a couple of miles west, and creating new frontage roads and highway interchanges.
Even if the state chooses an option that wouldnt allow access to the highway at the Wal-Mart site, Porcelli says its possible that Wal-Mart would be allowed to go ahead with development of the store with provisions that at some time in the future that access might have to be changed.
That decision, however, would have to be made by agency officials in Boise, he says.
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