New housing could mean more traffic on Bailey Road
The Woodbury City Council approved two new housing developments May 11, but not before they cast a wary eye to what those new units will mean to Bailey Road.
New construction planned will bring nearly 250 more homes to the area south of Bailey Road and west of Radio Drive. With those homes comes the potential for hundreds more vehicles to use Bailey Road on a regular basis -- a road some say is already too busy.
The developments include Phase II of the St. Therese senior housing apartment complex, and the Harvest View/Harvest Commons townhome and single-family home projects. Both projects will be situated near the intersection of Hargis Parkway and Benjamin Drive, and both will have direct access onto Bailey Road (aka County Road 18).
The St. Therese project will bring 64 more apartment units to the campus. The Harvest View/Harvest Commons development includes 122 townhomes and 57 single-family homes.
But that’s not all that has council members concerned. Earlier this year, the council approved the 305-unit Woodbury Flats apartment complex for the same area. Add to that the 216 units included in the recently-opened St. Therese Phase I senior living complex, and the potential for hundreds of new vehicles on Bailey Road increases significantly.
In January, when the Woodbury Flats project came up for approval, council members heard from residents north of Bailey Road who talked about how hard it is to get onto and off of the county road during certain times of the day.
At the time, council learned that Washington County has earmarked $4 million for capital improvements on Bailey Road, with planning beginning in 2018 and construction scheduled for 2020. However, the plans were not for a four-lane east-west corridor like Valley Creek Road, because the traffic counts on County Road 18 do not necessitate construction of four lanes at this time.
The timing is not good for council member Paul Rebholz, who would like to see the upgrades to Bailey Road done before the influx of drivers come to the area.
“I’m excited about what St. Therese has done with Phase I and certainly about Phase II. This isn’t about their development, it’s about the traffic along the corridor and the conversation we had with the neighborhood out on north side of Bailey in advance of the Woodbury Flats approval,” Rebholz said. “I thought we were going to be a little more assertive with our timeline.”
The most recent traffic studies show that the stretch of Bailey Road in question does not meet the warrants established for adding traffic controls in the area, according to City Engineer Klayton Eckles. The traffic from the new housing will likely help the roadway meet the necessary warrants, he said, but making changes to the roadway prior to that could be detrimental to traffic flow.
And, he added, Washington County officials still plan to look at the overall efficiency of County Road 18 in the next couple of years. As a result, Eckles thought some major improvements could come by 2019 or 2020.
Rebholz wants to know what that timeline is going to be.
“I thought we were going to get a concrete timeline from the county,” he said. “In my view, it’s critical to what we’re doing down there.”
Since both developments will take a couple of years to build out, Rebholz said it would make sense to have the improvements done and be able to increase the traffic volume on Bailey Road by the time the developments are complete.
“I think it’s something that needs to be addressed long before the next five years,” Rebholz said. "I don’t understand why it’s something that can’t be done today.”
Mayor Mary Giuliani Stephens suggested adding a discussion about Bailey Road to an upcoming council workshop agenda, so council members can get a better idea of how long it might take to plan improvements in the area. At the same time, she said, they could also get an idea of how Washington County prioritizes its projects.
City Administrator Clint Gridley said the city has been working closely Washington County planners. City staff, he said, has been emphatic about Woodbury’s needs, but often, if a project does not meet the warrants, Washington County cannot fund the projects.
He also pointed out that the Washington County Board of Commissioners annually approve the county’s capital improvement plan. As such, any proposals for improvements, and the timing for those improvements, have to be approved by county commissioners.
“We can be emphatic, but in the end, it’s their road so it’s their decision,” he said. “The county is looking at the county. It’s a bigger picture for them.”
Council members directed Gridley to add Bailey Road improvements to the agenda for the council’s June workshop. The workshop will address several road-related items, so Gridley felt it was an appropriate time to start conversation on the future of Bailey Road.