District 49
El Paso County Colorado District 49

D49 transportation department on the move

By Deb Risden

The El Paso County School District 49 Transportation Department plans to move into its new facility at 11971 Swingline Road in Falcon in early June. Construction began on the 34,000-square-foot facility in early 2023. It is located on a 29-acre parcel of land on the Falcon Legacy Campus, directly north of Falcon Elementary School and south of Patriot High School.

Jack Pietraallo, director of transportation, said the facility has been built to not only meet the district’s current needs but also allows for room to grow for many decades ahead. He said it started with a growth plan completed about six years ago that projected student growth and how to meet that need. “We have been the fastest growing district in the state for at least the last couple of years and second fastest for the last 12 years,” Pietraallo said. “This community is booming and we’re trying to keep up.”

The current location at 10850 Woodmen Road is about 6,230 square feet of shop and parts space for servicing vehicles and 3,225 square feet of administrative, bus driver and paraprofessional spaces, Pietraallo said. There is about 2,000 square feet of modular buildings that house the training team, training rooms and the fee-for-service program that registers students for busing.

The department is bursting at the seams.

The new building has about 12,000 square feet of administrative space and 22,000 square feet of shop space. Pietraallo said the current driver’s room capacity is 42 people. The space needs to house a current staff of 98 drivers and paraprofessionals. “By law, we have a mandatory number of hours we have to do training,” he said. Every time they have to do training, they close down the bus garage, clean it out and set up chairs for training space. “It puts the technicians in the shop behind schedule, and we already don’t have enough people and space to repair and maintain the fleet,” Peitraallo said. “They basically miss a whole day of production.”

The new facility will have a room large enough to train everyone at the same time and also the ability to separate the larger room into smaller spaces for different types of training.

In the current location, there are only three bus bays for maintenance and repair. The new facility will have nine bays. Pietraallo said the increase is about best practices and meeting the needs of the district. “We should have one technician for every 25 buses. We have only had three technicians until a recent hire of one, and we have 105 buses, soon to be 115,” he said. The technicians also support about 100 district fleet vehicles that include grounds, warehouse, security, plumbers and electricians. He said they will be hiring a mechanic specifically for the district fleet vehicles.

Exterior view of the d49 transportation building with large windows, white walls, and a parked truck on a sunny day.

About 15 buses do not have room to park within the fenced perimeter at the current facility. There will be space for 175 at the new facility with room to expand up to 300 at a future time.

There will be sufficient space for the fee-for-service rider registration. “Right now, it’s a maize. It will be the first thing you see when you drive up to the building with plenty of parking for parents and community members to walk in and register their kids right in the front,” Pietraallo said.

He said the building is all about efficiency. “We did a lot of preparation, looking at many transportation facilities in the state. We tried to take all the good ideas and put them into our building. It’s going to be so much more efficient than what we have now.”

The main building has been built with drivers in mind. The drivers’ room is in the center with the administrative offices circled around it. “The drivers can easily see and get to the routers windows if they need to make a route change or add a bus stop. They won’t have to walk all around the building to have access,” Pietraallo said. “They don’t have to get back into the hallway of the administrative area. It makes the building flow so much better. Everyone isn’t bumping shoulders to get in and out of the building either. About 100 people move in and out of this building several times a day. Now we have the space.”

Energy savings was a high priority in planning the facility. There are solar tubes on the roof. Pietraallo said the tubes magnify light from the sky and project it into the building. The building also has efficient LED lighting throughout.

The current grounds are not paved. “It’s mud and rock so every time it snows or rains, we have this muddy mess, the buses get muddy and it all gets tracked into the building and the service bays,” Pietraallo said. “The new building is paved. We can plow it easier and mitigate dirt a lot better. Our drivers and technicians won’t have to wash buses as often.”

The current transportation facility will not sit idle. The D 49 grounds department will be moving in. Pietraallo said they have been housed on the land of the new transportation facility for more than 30 years. “It was basically a steel shed with a dirt floor, no running water, no bathroom and one lightbulb. We have outgrown the Woodmen Road facility, but it is the perfect size for them and their growth in the future,” he said.

“Everyone is excited. It’s hard to keep our excitement down because it really is a need. Our district has really supported our department. This isn’t a frivolous thing. It was needed for future operations, not just for transportation but for the facilities department. It allows us to grow and serve. And that’s what it’s all about for us. Our goal is to service our community and our students and all this hard work is really going to pay off for a very long time.”

A grand opening event is tentatively scheduled for July 22.

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