Spokane Valley Fire Chief Mike Thompson said his department has concerns about a proposal to build a library on vacant land next to Fire Station 1 and expand Balfour Park because increased traffic could impact response times.
“We have enough difficulty now getting out of here at certain times of day,” he said.
The station is located across from the old University City Mall on a section of Sprague that is one way going west. The city is considering buying several acres of vacant land next to the station for a new library and expansion of the park just to the north of the station.
Fire crews already face a delay of 1 minute, 20 seconds when they need to go east because they first have to go west and then circle around to get going the proper direction, Thompson said. That lost time can be critical when crews are responding to a fire or heart attack. Last year crews from Station 1 responded to 2,170 calls, most of them medical emergencies, Thompson said.
Crews occasionally will head out the back way on Balfour Road to Main Avenue and then go east to University Road, but that can be a problem when the church across the street from the park is having an event, Thompson said. “It’s just packed with wall-to-wall cars,” he said. “We don’t particularly like to go down Balfour in the summer because of the kids playing.”
Thompson said he has talked to Spokane Valley traffic engineer Inga Note about his concerns. “This is an opportunity maybe with this development to find a long-term solution,” he said. “We’re not sure what that is.”
Note said she hasn’t yet looked in depth at the issue of increased traffic affecting the fire station. The city recently completed a study to evaluate whether any traffic mitigation was necessary and the consultant did not recommend any mitigation.
Note confirmed that she looked into the delay caused by the one-way street, but wasn’t able to help the fire department. “There really wasn’t anything we could do with that,” she said.