News that In-N-Out Burger is eyeing the site of the former Village Inn for a new restaurant has caused a flurry of excitement among fans of the California-based burger chain coupled with concerns from locals who worry that the addition of a store will worsen traffic congestion in the area.
During a virtual neighborhood meeting, attended by nearly 70 people, In-N-Out Project Manager Cassie Yee said that the project was just getting underway and it could be well over a year before a store is opened at the site located at 17070 SW 72nd Avenue.
“We are so preliminary in our process, I cannot tell you that this is a done deal,” Yee said in response to a question submitted during the meeting. “We have a lot of work to do. We’ve done some work, but we definitely have a lot of work to do. We definitely need to work through that traffic impact analysis. So calling it a done deal I don’t think is an accurate way to describe where we are in the process.”
In-N-Out is also looking at opening other stores in the Portland metro area, Yee mentioned Beaverton, Happy Valley, Hillsboro, Oregon City and Vancouver as other possible locations.
“It would be really premature to guess or presume if Tualatin or any of our other hoped-for Portland area locations would be the next up to open or the first to open,” she said. “It is extremely unlikely that a Tualatin opening would be the only opening for area. We often execute the strategy of opening more than one restaurant at a time when we first enter a new metropolitan area in order to diffuse the opening demand.”
Much of the reaction to the proposed restaurant has been concern about the traffic it could generate in the already busy area near I-5.
“I can’t imagine any scenario where that’s a good thing at that location. That corridor is already struggling to manage traffic flow,” one person wrote on the Tualatin Life Facebook page, summing up the sentiment expressed by many other commenters – even those who, at the same time, speak fondly of In-N-Out in general.
Many people point to the Keizer Station In-N-Out as confirmation of their concerns. When that restaurant opened in December, there were stories about long lines, and traffic blocking roads and backing up onto I-5.
Yee sought to ease those worries, saying of Keizer Station that “even with the amazing crowds we saw that first week, over the next several weeks and months and up until today, we did not block any entrances to any adjoining businesses.”
As for fears that traffic would back up onto I-5 and people would park on the freeway shoulder to jump a fence to access the Keizer restaurant, she said, “that never happened. None of that ever happened.”
“Our traffic management plan truly met the demand that we saw over the course of our opening,” Yee said. “That same thoughtful and proactive approach to traffic control management will be undertaken for Tualatin. There’s no doubt about that. We are committed to making sure any of our opening plans go as smoothly as possible.”
A traffic analysis will be completed and submitted to the city for the proposed Tualatin location, she said,” adding, “The analysis will study all of the typical things: how the development may affect local traffic, how we can mitigate it and how to minimize it.”
Some of those things are part of the design of the proposed Tualatin location. It would have a 480-foot-long, double drive-thru lane that can accommodate 23 cars, which Yee said is three times as long as city guidelines call for. And the parking lot would have 51 spaces, which also exceeds the number that the city code would require. Also, the only access to the restaurant would be via Jean Road, rather than the busier SW 72nd Avenue or Lower Boones Ferry Road.
“Creating or causing traffic problems in a community is not our intention at any location,” Yee said.