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Langley’s combined fire station and park-and-ride taking shape

With gas at the pump headed well north of $4 a gallon, the need for park-and-ride facilities becomes more urgent daily.

That’s the conclusion of Island Transit’s executive director Martha Rose as she talked about the new $2 million combined fire and transit station taking shape in Langley across from the Island County Fairgrounds on Camano Avenue.

“Our ridership is blossoming,” she said. “We’re keeping pace but the need is obvious and the numbers prove it.”

Overall monthly ridership in the county has gone from 77,721 daily in January 2007 to 101,010 last month.

Rose said the partnership between her agency and Fire District 3 has worked better than anyone could have dreamed.

“It took a lot of work but we were able to find ways, like bidding together on certain aspects of the project, that saved both us and the taxpayer money,” Rose said.

The park-and-ride is going to be special, she said.

“The emphasis is on ‘park’ because we designed in a hiking trail, rain gardens and interpretive signs,” she said. “There will be two unique shelters for our passengers, including those riding bikes.

“And we didn’t cut down a single tree, though we had to trim one so the buses would clear,” she added. “It’s going to be really neat.”

The project includes a 4,500-square-foot fire station and 61 parking spots for the park-and-ride. The complex is comprised of a total of 2.72 acres, with 1.43 acres to be set aside to enhance a wetland buffer.

Rose said her people are doing all they can to handle tranist-system overloads, including having three usually empty afternoon buses slotted for Clinton ferry commuters. The process is designed to change travel patterns.

“They aren’t running empty now and we haven’t even advertised the service.”

Rose said that, barring unforeseen circumstances, the park-and-ride would open for business in September.

“It can’t come too soon.”

Langley Mayor Paul Samuelson agreed.

“We’re very grateful this is being built near the downtown corridor,” he said. “People leaving their cars and catching the bus is on the rise, so the park-and-ride is important for parking issues. Overall, the project is important to the health and welfare of our citizens.”

As to the current fire hall, Samuelson said the city council hasn’t yet determined what to do.

“We own the property and when the fire district leaves, we’ll have some serious discussions as to its future.”

Fire District 3 board chairman Mike Helland said working with Rose was a real example of inter-agency cooperation.

“I have the utmost respect for her abilities,” he said.

The new fire station has four bays and room for firefighting and emergency rescue equipment. Though the building won’t be occupied around the clock to start, the office and support rooms were built for future expansion in mind.

“Though it may seem to some people a bit large, remember it will serve this community for the next 100 years,” Helland said. “Population may grow and demographics change, but the station will be available to handle all kinds of emergencies.”

Helland takes pride in the cost-cutting efforts worked out by both agencies and the high level of cooperation they entailed.

“Government bodies can get along, if they put their minds to it,” he said.

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