The purpose of the gathering on Thursday was to present the results of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affair’s environmental assessment for Louisville’s new Robley Rex VA Medical Center.
Once the presentation of the assessment’s results concluded, the VA began the process of collecting comments from the public.
And they got some on Thursday.
About 70 people attended the presentation, and several spoke up on concerns ranging from traffic jams to the project’s funding.
The assessment, which can be found here, turned up only two of 18 issues that could affect the area around the planned site on Brownsboro Road near the Watterson Expressway—transportation/parking and solid/hazardous waste.
Irene Yeager, who lives in the Crossgate subvision near the proposed site for the VA hospital, said she has many concerns, including the funding alloted to complete the project. She said she fears that Louisville’s new VA hospital will end up overbudget and behind schedule like others in Denver, Las Vegas, New Orleans and Orlando, Florida.
“With all these other hospitals that are in dire need of money and the overages that are taking place today, tomorrow and in the future they’re not going to have the money to build the building,” she said.
Harold Trainer, a member of Veterans for Peace and a retired Vietnam veteran, said he believes it’s best to renovate the current veterans hospital on Zorn Avenue or scout out a location in downtown Louisville.
“Moving the hospital on Zorn Avenue to where it is now is not a good idea due to the (traffic) congestion and the difficulty of veterans being able to reach it,” Trainer said following the meeting.
While the assessment flagged traffic as having an impact on the proposed site, it added that the additional motorists won’t cause a major issue. The traffic projections were developed by Department of Veterans of Affairs and the Kentucky Transportation Cabinet.
Martin Traxler, medical center director of Robley Rex VA Medical Center,said he plans to go back and ask the transportation cabinet how they came up with the projections in light of mistrust the crowd had for the figures.
“Clearly the folks here are not confident with what we’ve done here with KTC, and I’m sure that KTC is as committed as we are in gaining the trust of the public and putting out information that all of the taxpayers can trust,” Traxler said.
Traxler said it is obvious that the public doesn’t feel that a good enough job has been done to keep them informed.
“We’re going to do our best to give them information so that they don’t feel like we’re progressing without any regard for what it means to them as taxpayers,” Traxler said.
He said the project will proceed unless significant impacts are found through the environmental assessment. And he said at this point the VA’s only option is to build on Brownsboro Road or to go back to earlier stages in the process.
Traxler said building a VA hospital downtown or expanding the current one are not options within the current process currently under management.
Public comments on the assessment are due Feb. 1. They can be made by emailing LouisvilleReplacementHospitalComments@va.gov or mailed to Robley Rex VAMC, Attn: Replacement VAMC Activation Team Office, 800 Zorn Avenue, Louisville, KY 40206.