BELLINGHAM - Construction of a new Costco store would require the widening of West Bakerview Road for additional turning lanes, according to a tentative project approval document issued Thursday, May 1, by the city.
In the initial review of Costco's proposal, city officials determined that the construction of the new big-box store in an area already zoned for retail development would not require an extensive environmental analysis. But the project would require Costco to cover the cost of providing added turning lanes for cars entering the site.
The 20-acre Costco site is on the north side of West Bakerview Road near Pacific Highway. Brian Heinrich, Mayor Kelli Linville's executive coordinator, noted that West Bakerview is now two lanes in both directions, with a fifth center lane for left turns. The city will require Costco to provide both a right-turn lane into the store parking lot for westbound traffic, plus an additional left-turn lane for eastbound traffic.
Costco has agreed to pay for those improvements, Heinrich said, but as yet there is no cost estimate.
Costco also has agreed to cover a small portion of the cost of eventual improvements planned for the Slater Road interchange on Interstate 5, about three miles north, outside city limits. Traffic studies have determined that the Costco on Bakerview would generate a small amount of additional traffic on the already-congested Slater interchange by about 1.75 percent. Costco agrees to pay a proportionate amount of the cost of interchange improvements, Heinrich said.
The city issued its review and findings on the Costco proposal, known as a "mitigated determination of non-significance," after taking comments from Lummi Nation, Ferndale, Whatcom County and state transportation officials about traffic concerns, Heinrich said.
The city of Bellingham expects to be a participant in a cooperative effort to improve traffic flow in the area, Heinrich said. A key project in that effort - and an expensive one - would be the addition of a new northbound onramp to I-5 for westbound Bakerview Road traffic. Traffic bound in that direction today is channeled onto Airport Drive, across the freeway, and back to an onramp that crosses the freeway again.
"There's just not much value in the cities and Lummi Nation and the county fighting each other, when there's ways to work together," Heinrich said.
If the local governments, or others, disagree with the city's findings on the Costco project, they have 14 days to file an appeal of those findings. Appeals would trigger a review by the city's hearing examiner.
Costco officials have said they will not comment on the new Bellingham project until the company is ready to file a building permit for a store expected to be about 162,000 square feet, with 800 parking spaces and 24 fuel pumps. The existing Meridian Street store is 133,000 square feet.
Heinrich said he believes that Costco still needs permits from the Washington Department of Ecology and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers related to wetlands impacts, before the company will be ready to apply for a building permit at City Hall.