Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Planned fire station still on schedule

Takoma Park council briefed on $11M demolition and construction projects

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County officials in charge of constructing the new Takoma Park fire station told the City Council on Monday that they have completed the demolition of the vacant house near the station site and will soon finalize plans for building a temporary fire house to be used once the old one is razed.

The temporary station, which will house all equipment and operations and is expected to be completed in September, will be located on the city-owned lot on Carroll Avenue between the fire house and the Takoma Park-Silver Spring Co-op.

Bruce Johnston, county Department of Public Works and Transportation division chief for the project, told the council that plans remain on schedule and crews are now working to provide utility lines and power to the site of the temporary station.

Work on the new station began in March after more than a decade of talk to replace the 81-year-old Takoma Park Fire Station 2, which Takoma Park and county fire officials have said is deteriorating and too small for the demands of modern firefighting. The first step, completed last month, was to demolish a vacant house that bordered the station at 7135 Carroll Ave. The total project cost, to be paid for by the county, is almost $11 million.

Plans call for the current station on Carroll Avenue to be demolished sometime in mid-October and a new one to be built in its place and put to use by spring 2010.

Johnston told the council that the project’s progress will be evaluated monthly after council members asked about the likelihood of delay. Johnston said weather and other factors could delay some work, but such concerns have been included in the projected construction schedule.

Project manager Kassahun Seyoum with the DPWT said the county might work with the State Highway Administration to change the timing of traffic lights along Carroll if there seemed to be a problem with the current setup during construction. A sign soon will be posted on the site that explains the project and provides a contact number for concerned residents, he added.

Johnston said traffic near the construction site might be affected by construction.

‘‘Traffic going in and out is primarily going to be construction traffic,” he said, ‘‘primarily large vehicles coming and going.”

Council members asked the planners to periodically conduct outreach with city staff and residents, which they agreed to, and Mayor Bruce Williams added that he wanted there to be dialogue with the businesses near the station so that they could remain viable during the two-year construction.

Councilman Dan Robinson (Ward 3) asked Johnston if he had heard of the recent proposal to construct traffic circles at the nearby intersection of Ethan Allen and Carroll avenues, which was recommended by two consultants hired by the city. One proposal calls for a second traffic circle in front of the fire station as a way to reduce traffic.

Johnston said he hadn’t heard of the proposals and he has never seen a traffic circle constructed in front of a fire house.

‘‘I can understand that that type of operation would be a conflict within such close proximity [to the fire house],” he said.