On Monday, December 19th, hospital representatives attended a City Planning Commission workshop in which updated plans that addressed some community concerns were presented. The purpose of the workshop was to allow members of the Commission to ask questions of the experts — the people who have done the traffic studies and walked the proposal through the vetting process that includes compliance with codes and ordinanaces. The Commissioners asked a number of good questions, and at the end of the session seemed satisfied the proposal submitted by the hospital was in compliance with all regulations and requirements.
The Commission was particularly pleased with the results of a recent, independent traffic flow study which indicate the current “free flow of traffic” (referred to as Level A) would be maintained on Park Avenue and Elm Street even with the addition of a new garage entrance on the west side of the parking deck. In addition, the new entrance redirects the traffic coming from the south (about 10% of all of the traffic coming onto the hospital campus) into a much safer and less complex route into the hospital.
Here’s the current situation: traffic comes up Elm Street, turns right on Park Avenue and then turns left onto the hospital property turning designated parking areas into dangerous thoroughfares. The new configuration will allow those cars to turn left at the intersection of Elm and Park and drive directly into the parking garage. The traffic that used to pass by the homes on Park Avenue will be re-directed in the opposite direction. It’s a real plus for the home owners on Park Avenue.
We’ve heard the concerns of our neighbors and responded by limiting the access proposed for the new entrance to just 250 parkers per day with card-controlled access. Because the parkers who will be given card access passes into the garage through the west entrance will not be shift workers, it is extremely unlikely that all 250 will be entering the hospital at the same time. The passes with be given to physicians and auxilians and some administrative staff who come and go at different times throughout the day. But all of the traffic studies provide numbers that reflect “worst case” scenarios. Even worst case scenarios do not change the Level A designation for the traffic on Park Avenue and Elm Street. Traffic would remain “free flowing” on both roads.
Even with the added entrance, we still expect 90% of our employees, visitors and physicians to use the access points off of Seventh Street (which the traffic studies show is the case today). We remain open to suggestions for traffic calming measures.
Pending the approval of the FMH Board of Directors, our current plan appears to be the logical course of action to balance the needs of our growing hospital and our neighborhood responsibilities. The City Planning Commission will make the final decision, which is expected in late January.