Parking and traffic may be key factors in determining where the Durango Fire Protection District Station 2 will be rebuilt.
The district plans to spend $9 million to rebuild Station No. 2, currently near the intersection of 12th Street and Camino del Rio because it is too small and has many other design flaws.
The pros and cons of three fire station alternatives were laid out Tuesday during an open house at Station No. 2.
The station could be moved to the Durango & Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad parking lot or the Durango Transit Center parking lot. The station could also be rebuilt in place, but that would require the city’s Community Development Department to move.
All three properties are owned by the city.
It is undecided whether the city would sell, lease or give land to the fire district for the planned 22,000-square-foot facility, City Manager Ron LeBlanc said. However, the city will contribute about $3.5 million to the construction of the building as part of its contract with the district, he said.
If the station moved to the railroad’s parking lot, next to College Drive, the fire district would build a new access road for visitors to access a parking lot behind the station and the fire district would pave accessible parking spots.
On Tuesday, 290 cars and 12 RVs were parked at the railroad’s lot, bringing it close to capacity, a level it maintains until the end of July, General Manager John Harper said.
If the fire station consumed some of the train’s parking, the train would likely need to lease parking for its employees in the city’s Transit Center and other city lots, Harper said. There is a small parcel near the intersection of Highways 550/160 that also may be used for parking, he said.
The railroad may also build 12,000 square feet of new office and warehouse space in the next few years, which would also consume some parking.
Since the railroad is likely to lose parking in the next few years, the company may be interested in paying for a level of a parking structure, Harper said.
A parking garage could be built in the Transit Center parking lot or the railroad parking lot, depending on whether one is selected as the fire station’s new site.
The company is considering all the options and it is not opposed to the fire station’s move.
“We want to support them in any way we can,” Harper said.
The train parking lot offers some access advantages because fire trucks could pull out onto College Drive and trigger the stoplights at Camino del Rio and Main Avenue, said Tommy Humphrey, a Colorado Department of Transportation engineer. While College Drive is busy, it has about a third of the traffic that Camino del Rio does on a peak evening during the summer, he said.
However, a structure could cost between $10 million to $14 million and it would require residents to approve a bond measure, Assistant City Manager Amber Blake said.
At the Transit Center, the fire district would also be required to put in a traffic light, similar to the one at 12th Street, to stop traffic during emergencies, Fire Chief Hal Doughty said.
These lights can be challenging because they don’t have as much compliance as traffic signals that are in use constantly, Humphrey said.
The site may have another challenge as well. Some of the land was used as the match for the state grant that paid for the Transit Center facility, so depending on how much of that land the fire station built on and for how long, that would determine how much the district might owe, Blake said. Interest would be owed until 2020, she said.
Rebuilding the station in place would also pose some hurdles. The city’s Community Development Department would likely have to move into the Carnegie Building on Second Avenue, which would need to be remodeled, Blake said. The remodel would likely require $2 million.
The existing building would have to be demolished and uranium tailings mitigated for an undetermined cost, according to information provided at the meeting.
A temporary downtown fire station would also have to be established.
Jim Barrett, a retired firefighter and a former fire district board member, favored moving the fire station to the railroad’s parking lot because it offers better access than the other sites.
“I think a lot of people have done a lot of great things in trying to give us options,” he said.