Neighbors: VA study 'off' on traffic new hospital would bring

Neighbors: VA study 'off' on traffic new hospital would bring

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - The renderings are far from final. But they are the closest that the Department of Veterans Affairs has gotten to growing a 10 years old seed yielded from a 20-year-old need.

"This new Medical Center is designed to offer care well into the next 50 years," Robley Rex Medical Center Director Martin Traxler said.

The proposed campus, located directly off of the Brownsboro Road exit to the Watterson Expressway or Interstate 264, calls for a $900 million campus covering about 1 million square feet. The building will be a 104-bed hospital with out-patient medical treatment.

Some structures, including parking facilities, are six stories tall.

"It's not the issue of not in my backyard, " Irene Yeager, a resident of adjoining Grantham Court for 19 years, said. "Yes, it is in my backyard. But I'm not a NIMBY."

She wasn't buying the findings of an Environmental Impact Study, the draft of which concludes that no more than 2,000 of those spaces would be filled most days, and that traffic would be no greater than if the site housed offices and shops similar to those adjoining the property.
 
"The school system should be livid because they're gonna be backed up, " Yeager said. "They're not gonna be able to get their vehicles in and out."

The larger issue, project Manager George Odorizzi conceded, is that the VA has committed roughly $30 million to the project in buying the land and developing designs and studies.

And the deal is far from done.

"The law requires us to go through and satisfy the requirements of the National Environmental Policy Act," Odorizzi said, citing the EIS commissioned in March 2015. "(Building it) presumes availability of funding which would be something that needs to be appropriated in a future budget year."

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Yeager and some veterans have advocated renovation of the landlocked Robley Rex medical facility located off of Zorn Avenue. The advocacy group Grow Smart Louisville pegged those costs at $300 million.

"But that would make our challenges greater," Traxler said. "We're getting ready to include new scanners. It's going to be a bit more of a challenge that if we were able to design a new medical center around a scanner."

Tuesday's forums at Christ Church United Methodist Church represented the public comment phase of the Impact Study, Odorizzi said.

The VA also is accepting comments online at www.louisville-eis.com or by email at LouisvilleReplacementHospitalComments@va.gov. Comments can also be sent by U.S. Mail to:

Robley Rex VAMC
Replacement VAMC Activation Team Office
800 Zorn Avenue
Louisville, KY 40206

You may review the draft study itself online or at the Westport, St. Matthew Eline, and Main Branch of the Louisville Free Public Library.

A third option would build a new Robley Rex off of Factory Drive and the Gene Snyder Freeway near Ford's Kentucky Truck Assembly plant. The site is zoned for private development, Odorizzi said.

U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth (Kentucky-3rd District) and downtown developer Gill Holland have favored yet another site -- the now-cleared Philip Morris site at 18th Street and Broadway. That site had been slated for a Walmart SuperCenter, promising hundreds of jobs and an oasis for the food desert in parts of the West End. The Walmart deal fell through, in part to opposition from preservation groups.

"I look at it, you need a central point and downtown is not it," said James Downing, a Gulf War veteran. "Too much traffic out the Snyder--Brownsboro is it."

The final draft of the EIS could be ready in early 2017, Odorizzi said. Should the Brownsboro site clear all hurdles, including funding, work could begin in late 2018.

Downing blamed residents of the surrounding subdivisions for delays in vetting the Brownsboro site.

"Prior to the interchange being built, at Brownsboro and 264-they were all for it," he said. "The moment that interchange was finished, they didn't want it anywhere near here. If they don't put it here, then the federal government should sent them a bill for their portion of it."

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