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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.

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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