Costco Build Would Involve Road and Signal Changes

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Wednesday, September 21, 2016, 1:29 am
Alice Dreger

Above: architect’s rendering of the planned East Lansing Costco store

To manage the increase in traffic that would result from a Costco store being built as proposed in East Lansing, traffic experts are recommending consideration of ultimately adding one or more additional traffic signals and realigning Merritt Road. At its meeting this Monday evening (September 19, 2016), East Lansing’s Transportation Commission reviewed and discussed these recommendations, with several Commission members questioning why bike lanes will not be added along Park Lake Road as part of the project.

As ELi has previously reported, Costco is seeking to build a new store along Saginaw Highway just east of Park Lake Road. The site of the project is shown here:

In addition to a large store, the project would include a gas station with sixteen fueling stations. The project site plan also includes space for three “out-lots”—spaces for smaller stores of other types—but those stores are expected to come later, if at all. ELi has reported that Costco is expected to ask for as much as $1 million in tax increment financing (TIF) for the project.

The project layout currently looks like this:

Three driveways are ultimately planned for the project area, including one on Saginaw Highway close to the Costco store and two on Park Lake Road near the gas station, as shown in this diagram from Costco’s hired consulting engineers, Hubbell, Roth & Clark, Inc. (HRC):

Recommendations from HRC included creation of turn lanes on Saginaw Highway and Park Lake Road and widening a crossover along Saginaw Highway, as well as adding a signal on Saginaw Highway to help traffic crossing to the store from the opposite side of the highway. Another signal may be considered for Park Lake Road if traffic density requires it, which may happen in particular if outlot stores are constructed along Park Lake Road.

Also under consideration, at the request of the Ingham County Road Department, is the possibility of changing the layout of Merritt Road to have it meet Park Lake Road at a 90-degree angle. This change would reduce the expected challenge of turning from Merritt Road onto Park Lake Road when there is more significant traffic from the development across the street. This image, provided by HRC, shows how Merritt Road is now laid out (in light grey) and how it would be realigned (in dark grey with traffic lanes shown).

If Merritt Road were so realigned on the west side of Park Lake Road, it would meet the driveway of the Costco project area on the east side of Park Lake Road.

Transportation Commission members noted this realignment might lead to people seeing Merritt as an option for cutting through from Haslett Road to Costco. The City of East Lansing’s traffic expert, Steve Roach, told the Commission the City would “keep an eye” on that situation and deal with it as necessary if cut-through traffic became a concern.

According to Colleen Hill-Stramsak, who presented for HRC to the Transportation Commission on Monday night, the Costco store is not expected to open until 10 a.m., so except for employees coming earlier, the main store itself is not expected to substantially affect morning commuting patterns.

Hill-Stramsak said the sidewalk path along Saginaw Highway would be eight feet wide, accommodating non-motorized traffic. The sidewalk along Park Lake Road would be five-feet wide, and there would be no bike lanes added to Park Lake Road. Hill-Stramsak said the Park Lake Road right-of-way is narrow enough that it is effectively all needed for cars.

Nevertheless, several Transportation Commissioners wanted to see bike lanes added on Park Lake Road. Hill-Stramsak noted that Costco is a bulk-buying store, making it unlikely many people would use bicycles to shop there. But some Commissioners noted the outlot stores, once built, might attract bicyclists.

Roach said there is bicycle parking planned for the store, including spots for ten bikes outside and for forty in the covered vestibule entrance to the store, where shopping carts are also stored.

The Transportation Commission is drafting recommendations on the project in response to Commissioner comments. The East Lansing Transportation Commission is advisory to East Lansing’s City Council, which makes the ultimate decision with regard to a site plan, but decision-making about roads may reside in the hands of other entities controlling roads. In this case, the Michigan Department of Transportation (MDOT) controls Saginaw Highway, and the Ingham County Road Department controls Park Lake Road.

HRC’s full report and recommendations on this project can be viewed in the Transportation Commission’s agenda packet.


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