Louisville, Ky. – The construction site of the new Louisville VA Medical Center has seen a lot of changes since the first shovels of dirt were ceremonially dug during the groundbreaking ceremony Nov. 11, 2021. Contractors have been busy performing various earthwork activities as well as drilling on the site in preparation for the first blasting to break up the bedrock under the site which took place Feb. 21.
The prep work on a site before the major construction activities begin may not present the appearance that a lot is taking place, but it’s key in setting the success of a project, said Melody Thompson, project manager for the Louisville VA Medical Center construction project.
“There’s been a lot of earthwork going on. When we were designing the project, we always knew that there was going to be a lot of site work before folks started seeing the physical structure come out of the ground, so as people pass by the site they might not realize the amount of work that’s already been accomplished,” she said. “They’ve cleared the site, resolved some encroachments and set up their perimeter. We have a significant amount of infrastructure – storm and sanitary work that’s begun. They’ve also started blasting and the next significant milestone will be when they start drilling piers.”
The most recent activity on the site was the recent completion of the first blast to further prepare the area for future construction work.
Blasting is required to install key portions of structures on the construction site along with utilities for the facilities, according to Tim Hitchcock, USACE Louisville District area engineer for the project.
“Big picture, blasting is required to allow for the overall construction of the facility. This is due to elevation of the underground utility connections, mechanical systems, foundation/building construction, etc.,” he explained.
Hitchcock said blasting like what will take place on the site is a standard practice in all large-scale construction projects that encounter bedrock and allows for savings in time and taxpayer’s dollars.
“Blasting was the best choice for this project due to the relatively shallow depth of the limestone bedrock and the natural lay of the land,” Hitchcock explained. “The other common construction practice to remove bedrock is by using construction equipment that utilize hydraulic hammers. This methodology tends to take considerably more time than blasting and creates a significant amount of noise pollution over protracted periods of time.”
“The only way to avoid rock removal completely would be to adjust the existing grades of the site by the importation of material to build the site much higher than it currently is. This would cause other issues in relation to construction, site access, the aesthetics for the surrounding community, and would add considerable expense to the project,” he added.
Thompson said even though Mother Nature has caused some delays this winter, she feels the team is on target in the construction process.
“Our construction team is awesome. They are being very deliberate in setting up this project for success - that means that we ensure that the systems are in place to be successful,” she said. “Tim Hitchcock, Erich Hoehler, Bruno Bruszewski, Scott Hearne and their teams really work hard, and now we’re starting to get the momentum going.”
Now that blasting has begun, Thompson is looking forward to the next major activities planned for later this year.
“Blasting was a significant accomplishment. Next, we will be getting the final government offices on site so our team can be together in one location. They’re reviewing and working on structural steel submittals, drilling piers will start soon, and if all goes as planned, we will see them pour decks in the September timeframe,” she explained.
Thompson said working on this project is something she and her team are proud to be a part of.
“All the projects the Corps does are important and impact lives from environmental, to civil, to our military construction, but medical work gives back to our Soldiers and their families, to our retirees and our Veterans, when they are at their most vulnerable, when they need us the most,” she said. “That’s why we do what we do, that’s why I have the best job in USACE. It is truly an honor to be a part of this project.”
The $900 million project designed by SmithGroup is being constructed by Walsh-Turner Joint Venture II, Chicago, Illinois.
The project includes the construction of a new 910,115 square foot medical center, parking structures, a 42,205 square foot central utility plant, roadways, sidewalks, and other site improvements.
The new 104 bed, full-service hospital located on Brownsboro Road in Louisville, Kentucky, will provide world-class healthcare for more than 45,000 Veterans in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
The new hospital will integrate modern patient-centered care concepts to provide the best possible care for Veterans. In addition, to specifically address the needs of women Veterans, the new hospital will include a Women’s Health Clinic with four Patient Aligned Care Teams.
Construction is anticipated to be complete in 2026.
To learn more about the project visit: https://www.louisville.va.gov/newmedicalcenter/.