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Proposed Costco Gas Station: Boon or Traffic Nightmare?

Store representatives try to convince skeptical residents project wouldn't add much traffic to area.

Costco representatives and a group of Five Towns residents sharply differ on one notion about the company’s bid to build a gas station at its Lawrence superstore: how much new traffic the venture will produce on Rockaway Turnpike.

The representatives held a community meeting on Thursday at the Five Towns Community Center to provide residents with information that has yet to be released and to answer any questions, but the small group of residents present mostly agreed that the gas station will do nothing but add to the area’s problems.

“This gas station is an unmitigated disaster. Anyone who is a Costco member will be coming here. It’s going to attract a phenomenal amount of excess traffic,” said Edward Honig of Lawrence, who travels on Rockaway Turnpike nearly every day. “This is a major thoroughfare for a significant area. It can only get worse, much worse.”

But Daniel Baker, an attorney for Costco, said traffic studies done about gas stations, which are members only, at Costco’s other stores show this hasn’t been the case. He acknowledges the problems on Rockaway Turnpike, but said the addition of the station wouldn’t add to them.

“It won’t bring a noticeable difference,” he said. “If there were ways Costco can alleviate traffic around the site, it would be done.”

Meanwhile, the representatives said they would try to meet with state officials about improving conditions in the area, specifically on Bay Boulevard, where the State Department of Transportation conducted a study.

According to John Harter of Atlantic Traffic and Design Engineers, Costco’s traffic engineer, most customers of the proposed station would be current members who are already going to the store to shop or members who live nearby. He estimates that 20 additional new vehicles per hour will be going to the site because of gas.

This information didn’t sit well with people in the audience, including Honig and Elisa Hinken, of Inwood.

“You’re assuming people won’t come just for gas,” she said. “It’s so hard for me to come down on Costco, but for safety and traffic, it’s a mess. This is a tight quadrant, and it will be a magnet.”

About 80 percent of Costco stores sell gasoline, according to Baker. The station proposed at the Lawrence store would be the first on Long Island. The nearest Costco that sells gas is on Staten Island. Baker added that after Superstorm Sandy hit, that Costco station was open and operational and sold gas to everyone.

The station proposed for Lawrence, near the main entrance of the parking lot on Rockaway Turnpike, would have 22 pumps and can accommodate up to 32 vehicles at one time. The area outside the station can accommodate up to 60 vehicles. It will take 50 days to construct the gas station after approval, which can take from six to 18 months. The station will be constructed on a higher grade as a flooding precaution.

Part of the project will also be changing the entrance, which will be pushed further into the lot and converted from a four-way intersection to a T-intersection. These changes hinge on whether the gas station gets the go ahead.

The proposed station would be built upon existing parking spaces, most likely reducing overall spots at the store. Currently the store has 822 parking spots, and in Harter’s worst-case scenario — if the state took back some of the land it’s currently leasing to Costco — that number would be reduced to 734 spots. In his best case, spots would be added, totaling 915. He said July is the busiest month for the store, and only 650 spots are used.

Costco needs approval from both the Town of Hempstead board and its board of zoning appeals. No hearings are set at this time.

Still, at the end of the discussion, residents such as Hinken and Honig weren’t convinced.

“I love Costco, I love spending money at Costco,” Honig said, “but I think you’re being bad corporate neighbors and bad neighbors in general.”

What do you think of Costco's proposed gas station? Tell us in the comments section below.

DevorahM December 05, 2012 at 01:39 PM
As a Costco member, I love the idea of having cheaper gas. I do agree that the roads around Costco need to be reconfigured if a gas station is to be built but also in general as the traffic on rockaway turnpike as well as coming down from the 878 is a nightmare!
ABS December 05, 2012 at 01:40 PM
Costco treats its employees better than most big box stores both in salary and benefits..they do the right thing and will do the right thing here,,reward good corporate behavior
Rich Tan December 05, 2012 at 01:45 PM
It's hard to believe that so many people will alter their gas buying behavior to produce such congestion on RT. I will not travel over to Costco just to save a few pennies on gas. But I may strategize my gas buying to need gas when I go to Costco anyway on a usual shopping trip. I don't travel to Freeport to fill up at BJ's unless I'm there for another activity very nearby. I think the complaints about congestion are silly.
James Andrino December 05, 2012 at 01:47 PM
Can we please stop being the Long Island that chases away corporations and actually embrace some growth for once? Lets not turn Rockaway Tpke into the ghost town that Hempstead tpke will become once the Islanders leave!!!
Felicia Ruditz Slavin December 05, 2012 at 01:59 PM
I think it will initially be an "attraction" and a traffic headache. But, I think it will calm down to ordinary costco gas station traffic as they describe. I used to go to a costco gas station in another state and while it had steady traffic, it had enough bays to absorb it without causing a backup or a wait. I would have preferred that Costco place the station towards the back of the property and have some concerns that it is so close to Rockaway. Since they intend to put it towards Rockaway, perhaps they can better develop access to the parking lot from the side instead of just from the rear. That might help to redirect some of the traffic that now enters and exits on Rockaway and may mitigate any extra traffic effect.
Stephen J. Bronner December 05, 2012 at 02:02 PM
Thanks for all the comments! Let's keep the discussion going.
Carmela Soprano December 05, 2012 at 02:49 PM
Traffic study that was quoted at the meeting was done in 2010. It is sorely outdated, especially in light of the recent storm which brings construction companies, equipment, volunteers and other companies to the Five Towns area and Rockaway. Many of these trucks cannot use the bridge. This is expected over the next three years. Further, Costco says their busiest month is July, which isn't true. It begins in the latter portion of October and continues until the middle of January. Their statistics are flawed. As a shopper, who loves Costco, I avoid the store between those times specifically because of the high volume of shoppers. As for the roads, Costco has no control over them (and it still floods on Bay Blvd. and the Rockaway Turnpike/878/Costco triangle). Costco leases space from NY State DOT, but only on a month to month basis, so the DOT can take that property back at any time. No plans for 878 to have any turning lanes, which are sorely needed at Bay Blvd. The planners were asked if the entrance to the store can be changed. All of that will not change the fact that Costco will be missing parking spaces necessary to conduct their course of business at the store. The pet store and fish store will be demolished but the landlord to the property is not entering into contract with Costco regarding that property. This whole thing is going to make the traffic nightmare even worse. I love Costco but can't see this happening.
gary g December 05, 2012 at 07:44 PM
any changes that may make traffic any worse is not an option!!!!
Les December 05, 2012 at 08:52 PM
I think it should be approved.
Trudi Noren December 05, 2012 at 09:34 PM
My personal opinion is people will gas up when they go to shop at Costco making little, if any difference, in traffic problems. We have lost so many gasoline stations in the last year it is getting more and more difficult to find one and particularly in a situation like the hurricane we just experienced. A Costco station would have been a great benefit, indeed.
John Rock December 05, 2012 at 10:14 PM
Cars entering and leaving the fast food restaurants along rockaway turnpike create more traffic congestion then would a costco gas station.
MIG December 06, 2012 at 04:53 AM
I'm 100% for a new gas station at Costco. Especially in the current economy, many people in the community who are or would become Costco members would greatly benefit from saving several cents a gallon should the prices be lower than other stations. Everything Costco does is first rate, unlike some of the nearby gas stations that have been eyesores for years (such as the sketchy one at the corner of Rockaway Turnpike and Penninsula Blvd). Better to tear them down than prevent Costco from constructing a value-added asset to the community. How dare others only allow certain people to construct and own gas stations. Whatever happened to free competition? Traffic is bad because the 878 was SUPPOSED to have been an expressway (look at any old paper map), but that never came to be... and for some reason the Town refuses to synchronize the timing of the traffic signals. Why does a street that intersects Rockaway Blvd for only a block or two is almost always red for drivers on Rockaway Turnpike (in my experience, which has been almost every day for several years)? That's the root cause of the traffic issue in the surrounding area, not a proposed Costco gas station that wouldn't by any stretch exacerbate the situation.
Mark Cohen December 06, 2012 at 08:17 AM
I love Costco but hate traffic. The proposal for gas station will negatively affect the area and worsen traffic. The Town Board should reject its proposal when its borught up. We should call our Councilman, Jim Darcy and Supervisor Kate Murray at 516-489-5000 to share with them the harm this station will cause. But in response to MIG above, yes, 878 was SUPPOSED to be an expressway nut New York State DOT stopped building it. But, you do have your facts wrong. Legislator Kopel and Town officials (Murray, Darcy and Santino) about a year ago forced New York City DOT to retime the City's lights which were causing delays and improper timed. I remember an article in the now defunct Standard saying that the sensors on city traffic lights were inoperable because some NYC DOT bureaucrat wanted them to always be fixed lights. Seems to me, and I just got home from the city that way a while ago, that the County lights on 878 work and are timed fine and syncronized fune - and the Town has no lights on 878; in fact, the town doesn't control any traffic lights at all. Problems stem from the NYC controlled traffic lights, worse now because of traffic going in and out of the 5 Towns Shopping Center and Costco for the holiday rush.
Eugene Falik December 06, 2012 at 05:00 PM
It's interesting to learn that "Legislator Kopel and Town officials (Murray, Darcy and Santino) about a year ago forced New York City DOT to retime the City's lights." I am not aware of any such thing. The fact is that ALL NYC traffic signals are computer controlled, and many are demand actuated. While it may be that signals lose synchronization, that is generally fixed with a call to 311. The real problem on Rockaway Turnpike was the brilliantly designed Nassau County reconstruction which removed two traffic lanes. Certainly we would all be better off with a few less parking spaces in the shopping centers and a wider roadway, but the center turn lane looks great on paper. And talk about demanding traffic light retiming. What effect does the timing of NYC lights have on the Burnside Avenue / West Broadway / Rockaway Turnpike delays? Nassau County's problems have two causes. Dumb people blaming problems on NYC and a crooked Republican government that makes professional decisions based on politics instead of hiring licensed professionals and allowing them to do their jobs.
Kenneth December 09, 2012 at 02:13 AM
This would be a disaster. I travel on Rockaway turnpike daily and the Costco light single handed lay causes ALL the traffic backing up all the cars all the way to the airport. Once you clear the Costco light the traffic eases due to the fork in the road (Rockaway and 878). If the Costco light was shorter exiting onto Rockaway there would be no traffic at all!!! Adding cars and traffic to that one intersection that is already causing ALL the problems would be an unmitigated disaster.
Glenn December 09, 2012 at 03:11 PM
Most people who go to shop at Costco will fill up with gas if Costco does build a gas station. If you live five miles away and you need gas I am sure that you will not drive to Costco to get gas just to save a few pennies. You will fill up at a local station. I live in Florida and I do this when my car needs gas. I go locally. The difference in the gallon of gas may only be 4 cents a gallon. I took 14 gallons yesterday. To travl to Costco to save 56 cents is not worth it. But if I go to Costco to shop then I fill up at Costco.. I am sure that many other people will be doing it this way.
Judy Bernhang March 09, 2013 at 03:27 PM
More gas stations are closing. We need gas, Costco will provide.

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