PLEASANT HILL -- Safeway believes a new layout at its gas station on Contra Costa Boulevard will put an end to the long lines that have vexed motorists.
Safeway plans to add four double-sided gas pumps to the station, bringing the total number to 10. The company's revised circulation plan calls for vehicles to enter the gas station from Contra Costa Boulevard instead of the existing entrance north of the station on Golf Club Road. By removing up to 21 parking spaces, a dozen cars could wait in four orderly lines for a spot at a pump.
"The traffic analysis is still in progress but we believe this solution will eliminate the existing congestion," company spokeswoman Wendy Gutshall wrote in an email.
Long lines have been a hallmark of the gas station since it opened in February 2012. Safeway typically sells gas cheaper than the national oil companies, and customers who participate in Safeway's rewards program can save up to $1 per gallon based on how much they spend at the grocery store.
The city, Safeway and Sunvalley mall have been working to fix the circulation problems before the Sept. 12 opening of Nordstrom Rack, which sits directly across the parking lot from the gas station. Safeway plans to begin construction before the store opens, according to Gutshall.
Currently, the line for gas begins as one lane on Golf Club Road, becomes two informal lines in the parking lot and finally divides into four lanes before cars reach one of six double-sided gas pumps. "Fuel ambassadors" direct traffic and try to keep the procession to the pumps somewhat orderly.
Although Safeway has proposed removing seven parking spaces to create space for vehicles to line up parallel to Contra Costa Boulevard, the city prefers removing 21 spaces to extend the queuing area from 92 feet to 148 feet. Gutshall said Safeway is open to doing so if the traffic study recommends it.
Michael Fenley, Sunvalley mall general manager, believes the new layout will vastly improve the conditions in the parking lot.
"I think that we are managing the issue, but it's clear that significant changes to the entire traffic flow are required to solve the problem," Fenley said. "We're just managing a situation that is not satisfactory."
Rod Wui, Pleasant Hill senior civil engineer, said Safeway's plan is generally what the city was looking for, but he pointed out a potential drawback.
"Typically, when you add filing stations, you will create more demand."
Lisa P. White covers Martinez and Pleasant Hill. Contact her at 925-943-8011. Follow her at Twitter.com/lisa_p_white.