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Hospital plan talks nearing conclusion

By the numbers

23: Average daily number of delivery vehicles going to Vail Valley Medical Center.

1,400: Average number of daily vehicle trips taken back and forth from the hospital campus.

60: Number of new employees expected in medical center expansion plan.

100,000: Estimated additional square footage of the expansion.

VAIL — Expanding Vail Valley Medical Center on its current site will be complicated. The job will also change the look of West Meadow Drive, the street that now serves as the hospital’s main entrance.

The Vail Town Council on Tuesday took another look at parts of the medical center’s expansion plan, examining building sizes, parking and a handful of other issues. Since the council Feb. 17 took a three-hour look at a proposed new helipad for the medical center, Tuesday’s discussion was less time-consuming and less contentious. As opposed to the helipad, though, which is used about 75 times per year, Tuesday’s topics focused on more permanent features, including traffic, parking and moving the hospital’s south facade closer to West Meadow Drive.

The west wing expansion will add a fourth floor to that structure. Expanding the entire building will require removing several trees that now create a buffer between the medical center and the street.

Traffic patterns will also be a day-to-day change for the medical center. The current plan — which is subject to approval by the Vail Town Council in the next several weeks — anticipates taking almost all traffic from West Meadow Drive by the time the plan is completed.

‘Massive Traffic Safety Project’

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That traffic — mostly patients, employees and emergency vehicles — will enter the hospital campus through a new entry off the town’s South Frontage Road. Current plans envision a roundabout to serve the hospital, the town’s municipal campus and the Evergreen Lodge. That roundabout will probably be built sometime after 2020.

Skip Hudson, of Turn Key Consulting, a Grand Junction-based traffic-planning company, told the council that the eventual plan to move traffic to the Frontage Road, along with the roundabout, will be a “massive traffic safety project.”

That project could restrict traffic at town hall, the Evergreen and the medical center to only right turns. That means people heading west toward Lionshead might have to go east as far as the roundabout at the Main Vail interchange to get turned back to the west.

Moving traffic to a new emergency and general hospital entrance will be made easier if a land exchange between the medical center and the Evergreen is completed. That trade would exchange medical center-owned property adjacent to West Meadow Drive for Evergreen-owned land near South Frontage Road.

The traffic left on West Meadow Drive will primarily be delivery vehicles. Those vehicles now frequently park on the sidewalk waiting for a loading dock. The new plan would move virtually all delivery traffic to an indoor facility big enough for a 30-foot truck to turn around. The hospital now receives an oxygen delivery every two weeks, which is brought by a larger truck. That truck would load and unload near the existing parking lot on the west side of the medical center.

Dan Reynolds, an attorney representing a family with a home on the south side of West Meadow Drive, asked the council to consider moving delivery vehicles off the street as well. Those clients also asked the council to consider a building facade on the south side that’s “friendly to pedestrians and neighbors.”

Employee Housing?

The town’s employee housing regulations require businesses generating new employees to provide at least some on-site housing for those workers. The medical center is asking to instead pay cash for housing somewhere besides the campus.

“Every part of the site we use for non-medical uses takes away from medical uses there,” said Tom Braun, the medical center’s lead land planner.

The council could vote on approval of the master plan as soon as its March 17 meeting. Before that meeting, town community development department director George Ruther said planners for the medical center and town will take a closer look at questions including limiting pollutants flowing into Middle Creek and how the medical center will address its parking requirements if a proposed east wing isn’t built.

The proposed plan, along with changes, should be on the town’s website by March 10. More information about the project is also available at the medical center’s website.


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