Traffic tangles or no big deal? Costco's move to Galway sparks debate

A retail staple in the metro St. John's region is moving to its new home in the Galway development, and the area MHA is a little worried about the sudden glut of traffic expected when the new Costco opens Thursday.

"This is a wonderful set of challenges to have," says Paul Lane, Independent MHA for Mount Pearl-Southlands.

Costco's new building, on Danny Drive, is having its grand opening on Thursday starting at 8 a.m.

It will be the retailer's largest wholesale store in Canada.

It only takes one driver to cause a major snarl-up, so hopefully that doesn't happen. - Paul Lane

But Lane says since Galway is a new part of town, and with the unique traffic systems in place, he has heard growing concern about how people unfamiliar with the area are going to handle navigating it.

"To have challenges around growth and development in your district is a fantastic set of challenges, but it is going to be a challenge nonetheless," Lane said.

Lane points to several roundabouts leading into the Galway development from the Mount Pearl area and exiting onto Pitts Memorial Drive, and said he's seen first-hand people struggle.

And with that the only current entrance and exit point to the neighbourhood, there is a lot of potential for traffic headaches.

"I've seen people come to the roundabout and actually freeze, not knowing what to do. I've seen cars backing up in a roundabout. I've seen cars going the wrong direction, head-on towards other vehicles," Lane told CBC's St. John's Morning Show.

"And when you pour all that traffic into that area and pretty much everybody is gonna be using that one roundabout, and a lot of people who are perhaps not familiar with them, I think that there are gonna be challenges around that, for sure."

The Galway area is still being developed, Lane said, and eventually there will be further entrance points, alleviating some of the bottle-neck traffic he expects the Costco move will generate. he said it would have been nice to have those finalized before Thursday's opening.

Lane has a tip for people who want to brush up on roundabout etiquette. 

"If you're not familiar with roundabouts, take a look at the video that the City of St. John's has, and hopefully it'll be a smooth transition on Thursday. But I do fear there could be some issues — it only takes one driver to cause a major snarl-up, so hopefully that doesn't happen."

Three roundabouts tricky: Mount Pearl mayor

Mount Pearl Mayor Dave Aker said he is concerned about traffic backing up and spilling over onto Ruth Avenue. 

He said speeds are usually reduced as people drive through the roundabouts, "but the trick here is we got three."

Ryan Cooke/CBC

Aker said looking at the bigger picture, it's good news for the region. 

"You're seeing a shift occurring from the east end to the west end," he said. 

No big deal

But not everybody is adopting a naysayer attitude when it comes to potential traffic problems. 

Mount Pearl resident Bob Barnes has some praise for the design. 

"To me, the entrance to this has been well thought out and well planned and it looks to me like it should flow quite well," he told CBC on Tuesday.

Zach Goudie/CBC

That doesn't mean he thinks it will be smooth sailing on opening day, though.

"This place is going to be crazy.… I hope they have someone here to help people out on Thursday," said Barnes. 

The Royal Newfoundland Constabulary said it will have up to six officers around Costco's new location, paid for by the retail giant, from Thursday to next Tuesday. 

An RNC spokesperson said that kind of service isn't new, as police often do the same thing for road races, festivals and other events. 

Zach Goudie/CBC

Juergen Schau is another customer who doesn't see what the fuss is about. 

He was filling up at the gas pumps on Tuesday. 

"This is a test run for me [ahead of the grand opening].… We are German, so we check it before!" he said laughing.

"[The roundabout] is not a difficult thing ... and it also gives discipline to drive more slowly."

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