Traffic, troubles for O’Reilly distribution site

Sam Stockard, The Murfreesboro Post, January 3, 2018

O’Reilly Auto Parts’ second traffic plan for a proposed distribution center in Murfreesboro calls for modifying Thompson Lane and widening Northwest Broad Street, in addition to erecting a traffic signal.

The ‘Old General Electric Property’ is located just to the north of the intersection of N.W. Broad and Thompson Lane.

The auto parts company, which bought the former General Electric property in 2017, resubmitted a traffic proposal in December after getting a bad review on its first one and was to send in a site plan based on its traffic plan.

The city’s planning, engineering and transportation staff this fall identified errors in the company’s traffic study and “major flaws” in its ability to “adequately address traffic,” according to city spokesman Mike Browning.

The company is planning a 443,775-square-foot distribution center and 7,225-square-foot retail store at the site where it would employ 425 people with prospects to hire up to 500.

But it hasn’t gotten the warmest reception here, mainly because of the site’s location at Northwest Broad and Thompson Lane, a heavily-traveled area near Stones River National Battlefield.

City officials said the O’Reilly facility doesn’t match Murfreesboro’s “vision” for development in the area, according to Scott Kraus, an O’Reilly executive. And Mike Liles, president of Friends of Stones River National Battlefield, tried to forge an agreement to buy the property from O’Reilly to keep the development away from a portion of the federal park.

O’Reilly is puzzled about the opposition, since the property is zoned for Heavy Industrial use, but it still hopes to build here, considering it’s “very strategic” for business, with six stores already located in the area. The company even agreed to sell the land to a third party to go along with Liles’ proposal, but that didn’t work out.

Liles, who hoped the Civil War Trust could team with the city of Murfreesboro to buy the land, is still looking for money. A request for funding from the Christy-Houston Foundation fell through.

With that part of the equation on hold, O’Reilly is moving forward with its plans.

“We’ve been in the community. We want to continue to be in the community. It’s a significant part of our growth in Tennessee. … It’s a good fit for us. We want it to be a win-win for everybody and get us operating there,” Kraus said.

If approved through the entire planning process, all of O’Reilly’s recommended improvements would be paid for by the developer, including the traffic signals, turning lanes and other improvements, according to Browning.

The traffic plan calls for several changes for the plan, which would have access points on Northwest Broad and Thompson Lane:

  • Westbound Northwest Broad Street should be widened to three lanes from the intersection at Thompson Lane to a point 1,500 feet east of Van Cleave Lane. At this point, the additional third through lane should be tapered back to the existing two-lane configuration.
  • The Northwest Broad Street access would be aligned with an existing median cut and located across from an existing private driveway.
  • The internal road network on the site would be modified to improve flow and create more room for vehicles entering and leaving the site.
  • The southbound approach to the Northwest Broad access should have a five-lane cross-section with two northbound lanes and three southbound lanes.
  • The intersection of Northwest Broad and the site access should be signalized and include permissive left-turn phases for minor street approaches. Consideration should be given to operating the signal in flashing mode during low traffic periods.
  • An exclusive right turn lane should be installed on the westbound approach on Northwest Broad at the site access.
  • An exclusive left turn land should be installed in the existing median on the eastbound approach of Northwest Broad.
  • The westbound approach at the intersection of Thompson Lane and Northwest Broad should be restriped to include two left turn lanes, two through lanes and a shared through/right turn lane in conjunction with the widening of NW Broad just west of this intersection.
  • The traffic signal at Northwest Broad and Thompson should be modified to include right turn overlap phases for the east, north and southbound approaches.
  • At the Thompson Lane access, a stop sign should be installed to control traffic, and the road should be designed to include one lane for entering traffic and one lane for existing traffic.

Besides 425 employees, the distribution center would use 28 freight trucks and 61 delivery trucks. Most of the employee traffic would start at 5 a.m. when workers start arriving at the site and continue through 6 a.m. Freight trucks would arrive at an average of four per hour throughout the day, with more coming in during the early hours, in addition to delivery trucks arriving and leaving periodically.