October 28, 2002 11:00 pm

Our friends at Wal-Mart in Bentonville, Ark., continue to run into roadblocks in their quest to build a new super center in Hood River.

The proposed store, which would replace Wal-Mart's current location right alongside Interstate 84, is now facing a hurdle that may end the relocation.

The Oregon Department of Transportation told city, county and Wal-Mart officials at an Oct. 8 meeting that the proposed placement of a traffic signal at the site was flawed. Wal-Mart had planned to shift the intersection of Country Club Road and West Cascade Avenue about 300 feet to the east. The state said it had "grave concerns" about the safety of moving the signal since this could create a potential for traffic to back up too near the freeway exit 62 off-ramp. Compounding the situation is that the road is part of the Historic Columbia River Highway and the oversight advisory panel has also registered concerns.

The world's largest corporation in now waving the threat of moving to The Dalles 20 miles east of Hood River, if people don't play ball the way they would like. There is a location in The Dalles where Wal-Mart could relocate its 72,000-square-foot store right next to where K-Mart is currently located. The building once housed a warehouse-style grocery store.

But moving to The Dalles may complicate the life of Wal-Mart since The Dalles is the shopping center of the Mid-Columbia regions with powerhouses like K-Mart, Fred Meyer, Safeway, Staples, Albertsons and others already in place. Plus the number of low-income families in the Hood River Valley certainly attracted Wal-Mart to that community and The Dalles has far fewer such families.

Add this new obstacle with ODOT and six other key criteria that Wal-Mart did not adequately meet in the company's site plan and it would appear that the retail giant might be a victim of its own arrogant attitude. In believing that they are big enough to force Oregon's local government planning process into submission for a bunch of minimum-wages jobs, Wal-Mart might be shut out of some communities. The retail chain already is taking millions of dollars in revenues out of their 72,000-square-foot stores, without having to super size every one of them.

The battle in Hood River is a good one to watch, considering that Wal-Mart is proposing to expand from its 72,000-square foot store in Island City to a super center across Highway 82 in the next couple of years. The Hood River example shows there is hope for those who are willing to stick to the laws and make sure that a community maintains its livability.

People in small towns often complain about keeping their communities attractive, livable and safe. It's good to see at least one such community in Oregon that's trying to do exactly that.