Letter to the Editor: Consider Current Fire Station Location as Viable Plan B

Submitted by Sandy Currier

The need for a new fire station is not in question. However, determining the location has been problematic. Last week, the Historic District Commission prohibited a new fire station from being built at 139 Great Rd. This letter simply proposes a potential plan-B and does not advocate plan-B over plan-A.

There have been several studies indicating that it is not feasible to locate a primary fire station at 55 Great Rd. See https://www.bedfordma.gov/696/New-Fire-Station-Project. However, all the studies include two requirements that are not actually requirements. When these two requirements are relaxed, 55 Great Rd. becomes an attractive location to fully investigate the feasibility of locating a fully functional, future-proof fire station.

The first supposed constraint is that the ladder truck needs to be serviced in front of the building. If this truly is a constraint, then indeed the parcel is too small. However, it is both feasible and reasonable to locate the ladder truck service area to the area between School Avenue and northwest side of a new building. This allows a new building to be constructed with 4×20-foot wide full-length bays with the ladder truck service location being a fifth 20-foot wide outdoor area.

Note that the current 139 Great Rd. design is 15,000 square feet which fits easily within the 30,000s square feet of the existing 55 Great Rd. parcel.

The second supposed constraint is that it is not feasible to create basement parking. However, given that the back side of the property is 165 feet long, a ramp with an 8 percent grade can achieve a vertical floor-to-floor drop of 12 feet within 165 feet.

Regardless, if creating underground parking was deemed too expensive, limited ground-level on-site parking could be provided instead of a ramp.

Here is the current GIS link:
[https://www.mapsonline.net/bedfordma/#x=-7935038.577283,5234900.634874,-7934788.514739,5235087.995168](https://www.mapsonline.net/bedfordma/#x=-7935038.577283,5234900.634874,-7934788.514739,5235087.995168)

Here is link to the hand sketch of a possible 1st-floor plan:

https://drive.google.com/file/d/13DkVlZGHvcOsAPxWxKEFuoxJL3H482ho/view?usp=share_link

Finally, when considering building a new fire station in the same location, as the town of Cambridge (~$3M) and Greenfield (~$2M) have recently done, one needs to consider the cost of a temporary structure.

In summary, the town should consider the current location as a viable Plan B.

The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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The opinions expressed in Letters to the Editor are those of the writer, not The Bedford Citizen.

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Chris Wojnar
January 18, 2024 2:57 pm

I really appreciate Sandy and John offering ideas on the possible use of the current fire station location. It’s important to share thoughtful and creative ideas… It helps us to think out of the box! As non-architects, we have an advantage to perhaps present something that hasn’t been thought of before. Who knows maybe combining creative ideas with others will reveal something new!

McClain, John
January 17, 2024 5:34 pm

I walk past the current station most days. The lot is packed pretty full. Consider:
– The plans for 139 also include a 2400 sq foot outbuilding
– The current apron is 1500 sq feet, w/ a desire to make it deeper
– The new station design is 5 bays, v. the 3 now (or the 4 above) – further enlarging the apron
– While the footprint for the proposed main building at 139 Great Road is ~15,000 square feet, it is multiple stories. The total floor area is quite a bit more. Any viable station at 55 would require (at least) a 2nd story. The 2nd story was a sticking point with the HDC for the 139 Great Road design. I suspect this will only become a bigger issue for the HDC next to the Town Common.

I won’t guess how much underground parking will cost.

My point isn’t that we can’t build a suitable fire station at 55 Great Road, my point is it’s a complicated question, and we should all approach fire station design and siting with the humility of amateurs. If we want to develop a 55 Great Road design to the same level of rigor as 139 Great Road we need to vote an other $2M for design, put it to bid, do another 6 or so months of schematic design, and then we can have HDC vote again.

January 19, 2024 7:50 am
Reply to  McClain, John

I am in general agreement with the Letter posted two days ago by Sandy Currier.
I understand that the Town of Lexington built a new station on their existing site. I further understand that they accomplished this by renting a temporary structure from a firm that specializes in such matters. Bedford could rent such a structure and have it assembled in the area of 345 The Great Road. The town owns this land and there is now a pumping station on it. There is adequate room on either side for fire equipment to go in and out. It would require entering into an agreement with Stop and Shop to rent a small portion of their huge, mostly lightly utilized,  parking lot for the  temporary building.

Before 139 The Great Road came on the market, and the Bedford Plaza went off the market, there were serious considerations to constructing the new station at the site of the Bedford Plaza. This proposed site at 345 is  just across the street from the Bedford Plaza so it would be just as convenient.

John McClain
January 19, 2024 5:10 pm

The lot Lexington’s primary station is on is 1.39 acres (v. 0.69 for 55 Great Road). Lexington has a sub-station which I assume gave them flexibility on placement of the tempoary station. The temporary site was 2.77 ac (though I am guessing only 2/3 is usable) and included an empty office building, which I assume was at least suitable for offices, even if it could not be adapted to serve as living quarters. In contrast the pumping station is on less than .4 acres, and is serving a critical purpose for town. That lot is also at least partially in flood plane I believe.

I have not seen any reference to 340 Great Road being a viable site for the Fire Station in at least a decade. With regards to most recent round of siteing discussions (which have been going on since 2015) it is both too small and falls far outside the response circle. I have to assume the later would make any address in the area a non-starter for a temporary station.

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