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Looking to clear up traffic and vehicle congestion around Costco, Santa Maria is moving forward with plans to create another point of access to the parking lot and remove part of a median on Bradley Road.

Set to go out to bid within the next two weeks, the plan to improve access to Costco’s lot addresses an issue that has been ongoing since the store's 2017 opening.

The Costco store — a 156,000-square-foot building on an 18.2-acre lot — was approved by the Planning Commission in March 2016 with three entrances to its parking lot. The main entrance, which utilizes a traffic light at Meehan Street, routinely became backed up as motorists entering Costco slowed down before turning down one of the lanes to park.

The goal is to give motorists driving south on Bradley Road a way to enter Costco before Meehan Street, as well as to create a narrow tapered median that would create a side pocket for cars waiting to make left turns.

The city hopes to have a contractor selected by mid-October and to start construction shortly thereafter, said Rodger Olds, principal city engineer.

Community members have had complaints about the access into Costco’s lot at the Meehan Street traffic light since it opened, and it was no different Friday afternoon.

Santa Maria resident Rich Winslow said creating a second access point would likely help reduce congestion at the main entrance but feels the parking lot design is flawed.

Gyroplane instructor Vance Breese, who was using the lot Friday, said he has seen cars backed up into the lot at the Meehan entrance, and that while opening the median could help reduce vehicles stacking up, the Costco parking lot layout remains a problem.

“It’ll give people a smoother way to get into the badly-designed mess,” he joked.

While southbound motorists on Bradley Road will be able to turn left into the lot after construction is complete, the exit out of the lot will remain right-turns only to accommodate vehicles entering the future Enos Ranch Auto Center.

“It’s been a little bit of a tricky design since we needed to make sure we maintained the ability to allow lefts into [the future Enos Ranch Auto Center],” Olds said.

While it's not clear how much vehicle traffic will be affected during construction, Olds said there will certainly be some restrictions for vehicles on Bradley Road. “There will be some traffic control,” Olds said. “That’s the sort of thing we leave to the contractor as far as how they want to do their operations, but there will be some pretty significant traffic control through the course of this work.”

In addition to creating a new way to access the Costco parking lot on Bradley Road, Santa Maria is gearing up to perform significant work on Betteravia Road and the onramp to Betteravia from southbound Highway 101.

Put out to bid on Tuesday, the road improvements consist of several components: widening the onramp to add an additional right-turn lane, removing some earth on the right-hand side of the ramp which blocks motorists’ sight as they approach Betteravia Road, modifying the traffic signal at the top of the ramp and on Betteravia Road itself, extending left-turn pockets onto northbound Highway 101.

Olds said the Betteravia ramp work will take a little longer to bid out and will require final approval from the City Council due to the estimated cost — around $1 million — which surpasses the $175,000 limit on informal bids, like the Costco project.

As major Enos Ranch projects have opened, it’s become necessary to add an additional right-turn lane to keep the southbound ramp onto Betteravia from getting backed up, Olds said.

The road improvements — which have been in design for over six months — will extend the median on Betteravia Road by around 400 feet to enlarge the pocket of space for drivers making lefts onto northbound 101, and allow roughly 200 feet of more space for those turning onto South Bradley Road.

The city’s period for contractors to submit bids ends on Sept. 25, after which they'll be reviewed and the selected bid will go before the City Council for approval. The city — which is asking that the selected contractor complete the work within a 120-day period — will then decide whether to start building immediately or wait until the holiday shopping season passes.

“Internally, we’ll make a decision — if we’re ready to go and it’s the heat of the holiday season and we say ‘you know, if we put it off another two weeks, we can get around the holidays, maybe I’ll put off construction until the first of the year,” Olds said. “That’s one thing we look at — we know traffic gets heavier during the holiday season. Do we want to be under active construction at that point?”

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Razi Syed covers Santa Maria City Government for Lee Central Coast Newspapers.  Follow him on Twitter @razisyed

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City Government

Razi Syed covers city government for the Santa Maria Times. He is a graduate of Fresno State University and New York University.