Traffic, costs among concerns as VA seeks OK to move, build new hospital

VA seeks OK to relocate
Published: Jan. 4, 2015 at 9:16 PM EST|Updated: Feb. 18, 2015 at 11:59 PM EST
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Neighbor Adam Perito is worried about the effect the new center might have on traffic. (Source:...
Neighbor Adam Perito is worried about the effect the new center might have on traffic. (Source: Todd Hoyer, WAVE 3 News)
Congressman John Yarmuth says the VA met all of its criteria in selecting the location....
Congressman John Yarmuth says the VA met all of its criteria in selecting the location. (Source: Todd Hoyer, WAVE 3 News)

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - At peak, the crew at Heine Brothers serves a customer a minute in its coffeehouse off of the Brownsboro Road exit from the Watterson Expressway.

Manager Amanda Chism has no doubt that building a veterans' medical center would boost traffic.

"That'll only be beneficial for us," she said. "Especially being a drive-through store trying to get in and out really quick."

But Adam Perito wonders how easily he'd be able to get into or out of neighboring Crossgate Subdivision.

"If you come between 5 and 6 p.m. or between 7 and 8 a.m., it can be pretty hectic," he said.

The Veterans Administration figures that the new Robley Rex Medical Center could cost almost $900 million. Plans call for more than 1 million square feet under roof, spread across three multi-floor towers that would include a 104-bed hospital to complement diagnostic and out-patient treatment. The site would have 3,000 parking spaces.

"I am convinced that the VA met all of its criteria for site selection when they chose this site," said US Rep. John Yarmuth (D-Kentucky). "I would have picked other sites."

Grow Smart Louisville, a group that opposes the Brownsboro Road site, claims that the VA would save $300 million by re-working its complex at 800 Zorn Ave.

"The VA overpaid (at Brownsboro)," President Eric Gunderson said. "They've not fully addressed traffic. It's landlocked. One way in and out. That's only part of it."

"The VA did two separate engineering studies," Yarmuth said. "And they concluded that the hospital that we need for the next 50 years can't be done at Zorn Avenue. They don't need as many rooms; they need a lot more out-patient facilities."

Gunderson, and other members of Grow Smart plan to attend public meetings that the VA has scheduled from 1 to 3 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, January 15 at the Clifton Center-Eifler Theatre located at 2117 Payne Street. The meetings begin a 30-day comment period. "Providing there are no substantive comments that warrant further evaluation," a news release reads, "VA intends to issue a Finding of No Significant Impact."

Such a finding would move the Brownsboro Road site plan forward, with a request to Congress to budget for it.

"We're talking about construction lasting six years, with money set aside each year for it," Yarmuth said. "I would expect few problems in getting the funding."

Such a timetable anticipates breaking ground in 2017, with completion in 2023. "But we've been talking about this for more than seven years," Yarmuth said. "Before I became a congressman."

Perito needs no reminders.

"It's started and stopped," he said. "It seems like it's gonna happen, but we'll see."

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