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Costco: Gridlock Alert

If Costco gets built, it's a given: a huge increse in traffic on our already over-burdened roads.

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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Robert Surabian September 26, 2012 at 04:48 PM
John, I've seen it so many times when a poster ( or troll or a BJ Bot, like Evan ) resorts to spelling and grammar criticisms ( apostrophe 's' or no, OMG ) you are dealing with the lowest of the low, someone who has nothing to say and should be ignored.
Jim McKean September 26, 2012 at 04:49 PM
Well, John, it looks as though I for one owe you an apology. It did look like quite a suspicious coincidence, to see three new people log in in the space of ten minutes, all echoing much the same sentiments in the same tone. But welcome to the discussion, and I look forward to your comments.
Evan Bray September 26, 2012 at 04:55 PM
I was quoting from "Sam Johnson" who wrote "weed unite." It's just hard to believe three separate people made 3 brand new accounts a few minutes before writing similar error filled comments within 11 mins of each other. On the off chance that I'm wrong, I apologize and I look forward to your contribution at the public hearing on October 15th; it's been changed to the cafeteria at YCC. I look forward to meeting you.
Jim McKean September 26, 2012 at 04:55 PM
Robert, I would have to include among the "lowest of the low" someone who in their initial post refers to the people with whom he disagrees as "mistrustful angry people mired in the past" who "froth, blather, and protest too much." Followed by dark assertions about "others." How does that kind of personal derogation further the debate?
Robert Surabian September 26, 2012 at 05:10 PM
Jim, let me eagerly reply by saying that my middle name is "not furthering the debate" . I'm here to comment on the personalities and bots and issues as I see fit. Unfortunately for you Jim this board does not have an ignore feature, so when you see my name you know what to do because rest assured you'll never read anything substantive if you don't.
Jim McKean September 26, 2012 at 05:17 PM
????? That last sentence makes no sense whatsoever. And I'm not slamming your spelling, syntax, or grammar; it's just truly incomprehensible. Oh, well, it doesn't matter; what you're saying is that it would be best to ignore you, as far as I can gather. Okey-dokey, easy enough to do. Thanks for the heads up --
Jim McKean September 26, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Ok, getting back to the subject at hand: traffic. Cars, cars, and more cars. And tanker trucks and semis --
Emilia September 26, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I, for one, am looking forward to Costco's arrival. This area boasts dollar stores, a sub-standard mall, and soon, a "classy" big lots! Now we are trying to keep a quality store, which would help the tax base, out. Why?
Walden Macnair September 26, 2012 at 05:48 PM
Emilia, I really think you hit on something. To me it seems that Costco just doesn't have snob appeal and that's the real reason most are against it. They say it's the sewers but then suggest building an office building which would generate more sewage than a retail store. They complain about the, "horrible" traffic on route 202 which is only really bad during the morning and evening rush hours and that wouldn't change either. They complain about trailer trucks but BJ's and every gas station, car dealer and business get's deliveries. Even dunkin donuts gets trailer deliveries. In the end, I too look forward to their opening.
Evan Bray September 26, 2012 at 05:51 PM
Hi Emilia, No one is against Costco, per se. In fact, the consensus is that it's a good corporate citizen and treats their employees well (though the majority don't make a wage that would allow them to buy a house in Yorktown). The heart of the debate centers on the proposal's compliance with the comprehensive plan, traffic concerns in an area that is already rated an "F" by the regional Sustainable Development Study and will only get worse. The tax benefit is negligible, as even the staunchest Costco supporters will agree. No one's tax bill will go up or down based on this project getting either approved or disapproved. I'm glad that you're interested. You should come out for the first of many public hearings on the issue. It will be at 730pm on 10/15 in the YCC Cafeteria. They moved it cause they expect larger than usual attendance because of the interest on both sides of the debate.
Evan Bray September 26, 2012 at 05:53 PM
I hope you make it out for the hearing, Walden. I'm a big Harry Potter fan and would love an autograph. http://harrypotter.wikia.com/wiki/Walden_Macnair
Walden Macnair September 26, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Gee Evan, Didn't know you were a detective too. But I am glad to hear you like Harry Potter - shows you have a sense of humor.
Evan Bray September 26, 2012 at 06:36 PM
Agreed. Things get a bit heated on the Patch. I'm glad we'll all get to sit down and walk through the proposal on the 15th. The most important people (planning board members) regarding the approval/disapproval, have yet to chime in on this board; I'm interested what they'll have to say. They actually seem very even-keeled and reasoned. They definitely won't rubber stamp it. Whatever the outcome, I've done extensive research and the world will continue to rotate on its axis, but it might wobble a bit because of how big this darn big-box is ;)
Jonathan Nettelfield September 26, 2012 at 07:09 PM
If we view planning, community growth and quality of life through the prism of "what kind of stores can we attract" then we are only looking at part of the picture. While I would be the first to admit that I prefer a Wholefoods to an A&P, an LL Bean to a Dollar store, I do not feel that in Yorktown we are a deprived community from a retail point of view. By all means, if we can bring them in, and it makes sense in the frame of a long-term plan, then by all means let's do so, and that would include a Costco. BUT, just to say, as the current Town Board is apparently willing to, let's bring 'em in regardless of a previously agreed master plan and we'll deal with the consequences somehow down the road.....that is short sighted and irresponsible. And we as residents must look past the glitter of better shopping (and gilded promises like jobs and taxes) to really understand what the impact will be. It's hard, but no one built a really nice, livable community by taking it easy.
david liebman September 27, 2012 at 11:51 AM
Our politicians are clearly deaf and not hearing the voice of the majority. In rush hour its impossible to go anywhere in the proposed Costco area. Making a turn to get onto the Taconic is equally impossible and now they want to add more traffic? No, thank you. Im not sure that these guys understand that there will be a huge angry voting block that will surely vote for the competition in the next voting cycle. Im sure they think that the sales tax revenue from Costco will offset any damage to their reputation but when does that happen anywhere? It’s clear our road system cannot support this kind of traffic and they know it. If they don’t they must be idiots. There is not much that goes in with political races in this town but when they approve Costco they will give their competitors a tool to unseat them. In case they don’t understand the ramifications of approving Costco here’s what will happen if they do. Costco in Bianco out. Costco in Grace out. Costco in Murphy out Costco in Patel out. Costco in Pagnelli out.
Pat September 27, 2012 at 12:33 PM
I find it hard to believe there would be "thousands more cars per hour". Has anyothe counted the cars in BJ's parking lot? One post mentioned the grumbling patrons that use the Taconic. They should be using Underhill or Baldwin to reach you when .costcomis open, Costco exit isn't even your exit! For those who complain about pulling out of the Triangle center when trying to make a left turn across the traffic, shame on you. Make the right turn and go around, if you are unfamiliar with how to do that spend your free time figuring that out. I'm looking forward to a new store in our area. Now if we can get some more, like Target, JC Penny and Christmas Tree Shop I can start spending my money HERE instead of driving to other towns.
jo September 27, 2012 at 12:39 PM
no cosco.. no more box stores...
JM September 27, 2012 at 12:59 PM
New to the area, but learned my first weekend here in 2009 to avoid 202 on weekends. :) Bigger picture though: 1) Peek/York/Cort, I think, don't work together in a way they should given this area is perhaps one of the best places to live in the entire country; 2) Agree with poster who said (all three towns actually) we lack political and planning direction and fight between ideology for malls/big box or a more quaint, historical village atmosphere. 3) As a laid off IBM slave, I favor the quaint atmosphere coupled with businesses that bring ''professional jobs'' -- retail does not do that. Lastly, retail is not the future - for anyone. We will be buying more online and all demographic studies for the next gen, 78 million folks, favor working, living and partying all within a few mile radius, largely walking distance. Peekskill offers that more than the other two, but I see tremendous opportunity for all three towns if only they reach past city borders, collaborate and to do what is right for all of us very overwhelmed tax payers. Don't need Costco or Target or Walmart supercenter. We need professional jobs that pay six figs.
Scott Carson September 27, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Clearly some people don't mind the extra traffic and there is nothing wrong with having that opinion. I happen to hate the current traffic situation and don't want to see it made worse. I've spent 30 minutes going from Yorktown to Peekskill and had no choice but to sit in the bog of 202 traffic. I've got a back-road route that I can use, but it takes forever and it seems more and more people are doing the same thing. Traffic on 202 is going to get way worse during peak times, and a little worse during non-peak times. If you are against Costco feel free to join our mailing list. It will keep you up to date on meetings and things you can do to make your voice heard. Just click here: http://eepurl.com/pGxfn
Walden Macnair September 27, 2012 at 02:04 PM
Evan, From what I can find on recent court cases both in New York and other states is that Peekskill can deny access to their sewer system if they have a valid reason, i.e. lack of capacity. However there have been cases where the New York State Court of Appeals has ruled that the refusal to allow an entity to connect to the sewer was capricious and thus the court issued an order to allow those connections. However, I have no idea what the capacity of the Sewer System in Peekskill is or how close we are to maxing it out.
Paul Moskowitz September 27, 2012 at 02:33 PM
The one thing that we learned after four years of the Sustainable Development Study, 2000 - 2004, was that the intersections on Route 202 from the Taconic to Lexington Avenue were all rated "F" for failure during peak hours. The "F" whiich is the worst rating, means that waiting times to cross the intersections are unacceptable. The ratings cannot get worse than "F" but the waiting times during peak hours can get worse and the peak hours can spread in time as people try to avoid the mess. At the February meeting on Route 202, the NY State DOT representative said that NY has no money for Route 202. So how can we even think about adding the over 750 car trips per hour that will result from Costco?
Jim McKean September 27, 2012 at 02:43 PM
Shame on me? I am very familiar with that route. In fact, I've spent more than enough time becoming familiar with every route to try to avoid the inevitable traffic jams you run into driving around town. Easy for you to disparage grumbling clients -- you don't depend on their dollars to put food on your table. All businesses are the same: the client is king. If they're unhappy you'd better pay attention, if you want to stay in business.
Pat September 27, 2012 at 04:02 PM
Seems you are taking a lot of replies personally Jim. I went back in the posts to see who referred to "grumbling clients"....Wasn't you. Most of the people appear to be complaining of traffic in Yorktown by the traffic light intersection. My response was directed in regards to coming out of the triangle center and attempting to make a left onto Rt 202, a feat that is also almost impossible when there is NO traffic as the cars whiz by. I learned as a lung driver it is safer to make a right and find a location you can turn around in, I don't even need to know the back roads. I've done that move many a time in many a neighborhood. I'd rather drive safely, no matter the location than to get so upset over inconsiderate drivers or worse, in an accident because of those drivers. If more people learned that tactic it would save a lot of frustration. It goes without saying you have to have a plan when driving in that part of Yorktown, otherwise you can expect to be aggravated. Yorktown is not the only location that is like that. Route 6 is the same, both ways from the Taconic. It is to be expected and people should add time into their schedule to deal with that. I lived in the "suburb" of Queens and dealt with REAL traffic, maybe that is why I am more tolerant than most when it comes to the extra 5-15 minutes getting around during peak times in this area. In my old neck of the woods it would have been 45 minutes minimum.
Bill September 27, 2012 at 05:27 PM
Route 202 is the middle of town???
Bill September 27, 2012 at 05:30 PM
Yes, it would be terrible to add something as bad as a mall and big box warehouse club to Yorktown. Except when you open your eyes and realize that they're already here! Honestly, do you folks actually think before you post? Or do you think that people are so clueless that they'll ignore reality when they read your posts?
Bill September 27, 2012 at 05:36 PM
You ignore the fact that there are 6 lanes underneath that Taconic overpass and most of them are not being used but clearly could be. The state has done nothing to improve traffic on 202 and here we have a proposal offering to give millions of dollars towards improving it. It's not like this is a road that the state has tried to fixed and has been unable to. It's a single lane road that improvements can easily be made to in order to alleviate the traffic. It is not Route 6 thru Mohegan where you have retail on both sides of the street and it cannot be widened. And I'll give you another voting outcome. I will vote against anyone who votes against Costco. So will others.
Scott Petricig September 27, 2012 at 05:40 PM
I have to say that even though Costco may not be the best fit for the area, and the environmental concerns may be real, the traffic issue seems way overblown. This is ONE store, and most people will likely be doing shopping there in the middle of the day, or after rush hour, or on weekends. Personally, I wouldn't be stopping by there on my way home from work (if I were to join the store at all). The 750 cars per hour is a worst-case count, right? This means at the peak shopping time. Not all day long. I don't think it would be any better if a dozen stores, offices, and maybe residential housing went in that location. It would probably be worse. Look at the Cortlandt Town Center. Sure, the traffic there sucks. But it's only in the vicinity of the CTC and only during the peak hours. And there are dozens of stores there! Traffic going up the Route 6 hill has been horrible ever since I was born, and back then it was the Westchester Mall and didn't get half as many shoppers. I think the real issue at hand is that Route 202 NEEDS IMPROVEMENTS. This needs to be what people are fighting for. Development is going to happen, one way or another, and regardless of what it is it's going to add traffic. Costco is not going to be the death of Yorktown.
Bill September 27, 2012 at 06:13 PM
That is correct, the additional number of cars on weekdays when traffic is really bad would be much lower than on weekends when it is not overloaded. And the amusing thing to me is that the office complex that is currently in the comprehensive plan for that location (which the "smart growth" people tell us is great) would generate most of its traffic during the time when traffic is at its worst -- during rush hours! How could such a thing have been approved in the plan if it was as well thought out as we're lead to believe? It does not sound very smart to me! Also, remember that all of the dire predictions ignore the improvements that will be made because Costco is funding them.
Ralph Warren September 28, 2012 at 02:23 PM
I also have problems with the estimate of cars. Assuming a car is a customer, 1000 cars in an hour would mean that Costco would have 20 cashiers each processing 50 customers in an hour. That couldn't happen even if each customer had only 1 item. 600 an hour means 10 cashiers would process 1 per minute, 20 cashiers would process 2 per minute. Crazy numbers. Don't let Costco in unless the roads are improved. But with improvements, even with Costco, we may be better off than today.
Bill September 28, 2012 at 06:10 PM
Correct, Ralph. The numbers do not pass the "sniff test" (to use a technical term). Even at 600, it's 10 cars entering an leaving every minute, and 10 customers entering and leaving every minute. There's no way that makes sense. I believe that best case the numbers are counting trips, so 600 would actually be 300 coming and going. Based on other posts here and in other threads, I am sure the numbers are being used to cast the most unflattering light on the project.

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