LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11)-- It was a night of many questions and few answers for military families and residents who will become neighbors of Louisville's future Robley Rex VA Medical Center (VAMC).
A few dozen people gathered at the Clifton Center Wednesday night to voice their concerns about the environmental impacts of the hospital's future location, at the intersection of Brownsboro Road and the Watterson Expressway.
The “traffic nightmare” made the list of just about every person who spoke at a public forum hosted by the Department of Veterans Affairs. The medical center's director, project manager, and their expert consultants took notice of residents' questions, but did not provide too many answers.
"We don't want to overlook something that may be a concern to the public, the neighborhood, or to the communities affected by the project so we're looking for input that will help us perform a thorough analysis," George Odorizzi, the project manager said.
At times, the audience had to be reminded of the night's purpose: Looking ahead at the future hospital's environmental impact, but many in the crowd still struggled with the VA's purchase of the Brownsboro Rd. site.
"Those discussions are over and we're moving forward," Mary Lee Rothschild, the medical center's interim director said.
It was harder said than done for one military wife.
"I don't think it's a done deal. I think the land has been purchased. They said they haven't even appropriated the money. So until they appropriate and soil is broken, I'll keep speaking up to say there are better options for our veterans," Sharron Hilbrecht, of Crossgate, said.
An issue that caused some tense moments related to a recent environmental assessment, that stated the new location would not create a significant impact on area traffic.
"There's definitely a choke point in this area, we're not just talking about those neighborhoods, we're talking anybody going north on 71 or east on 22. It's really a serious nightmare," Kirk Hilbrecht, the mayor of Crossgate, said.
The VA says it will work to avoid that nightmare as its planning and community input continues. Odorizzi says he's working closely with Kentucky Transportation Cabinet, which will ultimately make the last call on the routes used to get in and out of the new hospital.
Construction is set to begin in 2017, with a completion date sometime in 2023.
The public is encouraged to submit further comments to LouisvilleReplacementHospitalComments@va.gov.