It’s time to talk about traffic. And not a moment too soon – I don’t know how many of you had the misfortune to have chosen 202 to get around town this past weekend. Bumper to bumper, stop and go, inching along. To call it glacial would be generous – at least glaciers move. And what about the main intersection downtown? The wait at the light seems already so long – especially when it’s out of sight down the hill.
When it comes to Costco, traffic is the heart of the matter. All the other drawbacks – environmental and social – can be debated. But traffic can’t: the present reality is a road system that is already strained to the limit – or already past it, you might well think as you inch along mile after excruciatingly slow mile.
That Costco will add a deluge of new traffic is admitted by everyone. Even the developers. In the Draft Environmental Impact Statement that the Planning Board is right now reviewing, they admit to some pretty sobering numbers. By their own projections an additional 758 cars an hour will be dumped onto route 202. But in reality we can expect much more: experience has shown that a superstore typically generates 42% more traffic than the rate listed in the manual they used (the Trip Generation manual issued by the Institute of Traffic Engineers).
That’s over a thousand more cars an hour. But hang on: that’s an average for all the hours that Costco is open. What matters to all of us is how many cars are going to be on our roads during the peak hours. Saturday, for example. When there are ball games at all the fields on 202-35. When, as this past weekend, it’s apple-picking time. Or to spend a glorious afternoon outdoors, at the FDR Park.
And the projections in the DEIS are more misleading than that. They don’t seem to include the extra traffic for that interstate-sized gas station, for one. And what about the trucks? It will take a constant parade of tanker trucks and semi-trailers to refuel and resupply the store. Unlike the automobiles, the Taconic isn’t an option – which means they’ll have to trundle along either the clogged 202 artery from Peekskill, or – much more likely – across 202-35 from Katonah. Through the middle of town, with a yield sign at an already overburdened intersection. Which means a cold start uphill into traffic. Just a detail? Not if you’ve had to sit behind one of those big rigs as the poor guy tries to inch into traffic and slowly gear up. Before coming to a crashing halt right up the hill at Baldwin Road – or the police station, just a bit further along. Or the school.
Except for a very few short distances, all of our town’s roads are two lane – and, according to what the town has been told by the State, they’re going to stay that way. Even that stretch of 35-202. There are vague plans to ‘improve’ it – trees, a turning lane – but it will remain a two lane road. If the state ever gets the money, they’re going to devote it to the long-term plan to finish the extension of the Bear Mountain Parkway to the Taconic. We’re told Costco is promising to upgrade the roads: a million dollars or so. Yes, that’s a lot of money. But apparently when it comes to roads, it doesn’t go that far: a few hundred yards, in fact. A new intersection at the Costco store, access ramps to the Taconic, four lanes. Yes, it will greatly ease the flow from the Taconic.
But what about all those other people who will be flocking to the superstore from across county east of us? Katonah, Bedford, Purdy’s, Mt. Kisco, Golden’s Bridge, 684, the Saw Mill – there’s a lot of people living over there, and they have only one route to get to Costco: 35-202. And that road is already a nightmare, as anyone knows who’s tried to make a left turn from the Post Office or the Urgent Care office building, or out of the A&P shopping center.
Yes, it’s true: you can always go the other way. If you’re local, we all know other routes. But traffic, as any engineer will tell you, is exactly like atherosclerosis. As the main arteries get clogged, traffic seeks out other routes, very quickly overloading side roads that never envisioned that kind of heavy use. You might think that since you don’t live next to 202, or 35, or 100, no problem. But just think of all your fellow townspeople taking those shortcuts – and if you don’t live on a dead end street, chances are good they’ll be going by your house. And out-of-towners, too: these days everybody has a GPS. And they’re all going to be going really fast because they’ve been sitting in a traffic jam and forced to take a detour they’re not familiar with. Don’t think so? Just ask the people who live on Hallocks Mill Road. And the traffic mitigation for them? A speed bump.
As I said, we can debate all the other aspects of Costco, but not the traffic. If that thing is built, the cars and trucks will come. It’s a given, and it will be an unmitigated disaster. Literally: even just using their rosy projections for autos, and then adding all the trucks, the future with Costco is a huge increase in traffic. But our roads are already carrying more than they can bear. It’s simple math, really: more traffic, more roads. That’s the tried and true way things were done – last century. But all that we’ll be able to do, once that behemoth on the hill is a reality, is do what we’ve always been forced to do in the past: make it work. And the only way to do that, if we’re being honest, is to extend the expansion of 35 all the way from Route 100 to the Bear Mountain Parkway. Four lanes and a huge new intersection in the middle of town.
This is not just a concern for the Planning Board. Where is our Town Board? Why the deafening silence? This is a matter of critical importance to the residents of Yorktown, and the businesses that depend not just on us but people from out of town coming here to shop, eat at our restaurants, use our parks and amenities.
I, for one, would very much like to hear in detail how they plan on handling all this traffic and the congestion that threatens to swamp us. Not vague talk: real plans.