A completed traffic study was the main topic of conversation at a third town hall held about a proposed QuikTrip convenience store at the corner of Butler Hill and Lemay Ferry roads, which is currently the site of the historic Kassebaum Building.
The in-person June 28 town hall, hosted by 6th District Councilman Ernie Trakas, drew around 25 to 35 attendees to The Pavilion at Lemay.
QuikTrip is proposing a new store at 5040 Lemay Ferry Road. There are currently two historic buildings at the corner – the Kassebaum Building, also known as the Sessions Building, would be demolished for the new development. The other two buildings on the corner, including the Kassebaum House that currently house a hair salon, would remain.
The property has been under contract pending St. Louis County Zoning since earlier this year, although no plans have been submitted to the county as of press time.
The town hall centered around a traffic study that QuikTrip conducted with CBB Transportation Engineers + Planners. According to the study, the location could generate up to 90 new trips during weekday morning rush hour and 80 new trips during weekday afternoon rush hour, in addition to 220 pass-by trips in both the morning and afternoon weekday peak hours from traffic that already travels on adjacent roadways.
Minimal increases in queues and delays are expected.
Two previous town halls had been held over the proposal in March, although at that time no study had been conducted about the traffic impact the store could have on Lemay Ferry and Butler Hill.
“The largest piece that we didn’t have at the time was the traffic. We didn’t have the traffic study completed,” said Gwen Keen, QuikTrip’s director of real estate. “It is still in draft form since we haven’t submitted to the county yet. We don’t consider it final until we get their input with any additional scoping or what not they may need.”
Sessions Furniture operated out of the Kassebaum Building for several years, but moved to a different location 20 years ago and used the building for storage until 2015. The building has been vacant for four years, according to QuikTrip, and the cost to renovate it enough to open it to the public would be $3 million.
QuikTrip had originally proposed full access to the site from Lemay Ferry Road, which would have required a left turn lane but because of the traffic study, QuikTrip adjusted the site plan.
“At this time there is no left turn in proposed from Lemay Ferry,” said Lee Cannon, principal at CBB. “We did discuss options for that but they would need to widen the road and mark a left turn lane and we determined the preferred option is no left turn in on Lemay Ferry.”
A southbound right turn lane would be added from Lemay Ferry onto Butler Hill, which Cannon said was already needed today considering existing traffic patterns.
“The volume of southbound traffic and southbound right turns is such that that approach warrants a southbound right turn lane, so a separated turn lane that’s not there today,” said Cannon. “It’s not necessarily an impact of QuikTrip but because it’s warranted today and QuikTrip is going in, they have considered and agreed to build the right turn lane.”
Some of the attendees questioned the methodology for determining traffic, considering that traffic volume is still lower than normal because of COVID-19.
“The data that was available pre-COVID was provided by MoDOT (Missouri Department of Transportation) and we applied linear growth to that of a half-percent per year. … MoDOT provided a growth rate that they were aware of for the area,” said Cannon. “We applied that to the count that they had available. … Basically we ignored COVID in the fact that we assumed traffic would jump … and continue to grow as if COVID never happened. We are being conservatively high.”
The study used counts from the state that started back to 2014. Typically those counts are gathered by the state when local schools are in session. The study then added a half-percent per year in upward growth to those counts for seven years.
Another attendee asked if the study considered accommodations for bicyclists and pedestrians.
“In all of our traffic studies we do consider cyclists and pedestrians. … There are no current plans by the county or the state to expand the existing facilities for bicycles and on-road facilities,” Cannon said. “There will be new sidewalks along both frontages of the facilities. There’s also existing crosswalks at the signal and those will be maintained and upgraded.”
The new right turn lane on southbound Lemay Ferry will take out some of the signal equipment, and when that’s completed, that corner will be brought up to current Americans with Disabilities Act standards. An island would also separate the new right turn lane from traffic turning left onto Lemay Ferry from Butler Hill.
“We look to see what we can do to mitigate the traffic. Again, we’re not going to improve this whole intersection,” said Kween “(But) we’re giving up part of the property and putting that lane in and so we honestly do try to do the right things.”