Riverside: Turn lanes sufficient for hospital traffic

Published 4:15 pm Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Riverside Health Systems remains confident that adding turn lanes to Benn’s Grant Boulevard will be sufficient to handle the traffic that will use the road once the 50-bed Riverside Smithfield Hospital opens in 2026.

Hospital President Jessica Macalino, architect Chris Yago and project manager Russell Parrish met with members of the Benn’s Grant Homeowners Association on Aug. 22 to address concerns residents had raised over Riverside’s plan to use the currently one-lane entrance into the 776-home development as its highway access.

Site plans the trio shared at the meeting show the entrance widening almost immediately to include a right-turn lane, intended for ambulance access to the hospital’s emergency room, and another right-turn lane a few more feet down the road for traffic headed to the hospital’s main entrance.

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Riverside contends Benn’s Grant Boulevard was never intended solely for access to the housing development, but rather was always intended for the hospital, and designed with an extra-large median to allow for eventual left-turn lanes into a future commercial phase of Benn’s Grant.

When Isle of Wight County supervisors rezoned the nearly 30-acre hospital site in 2008 for commercial uses, Riverside had at the time planned to build its own road at the northern edge of the parcel to access the intersection of Benn’s Church and Brewer’s Neck boulevards, also known as Routes 10 and 258, respectively. In 2015, Riverside partnered with Isle of Wight County, Benn’s Grant developer East West Communities, and the developer of the stalled St. Luke’s Village development planned for Route 258, to fund a $5 million redesign of the Benn’s intersection.

The resulting bypass, completed in 2016, widens at Benn’s Grant’s intersection with Route 10 into a four-lane, two-way road that allows direct access from the development to Route 258.

Riverside contends the originally-planned north access road is no longer needed now that the bypass is complete, and earlier this year, received approval from county supervisors to eliminate circa-2008 proffered zoning condition.

Homeowners Association President Brooke Bond, following the meeting, said a lot of her concerns and those of other residents were answered.

Bond had told the Times in July one of her concerns was the possibility of an ambulance coming down the one-lane entrance to Benn’s Grant and residential traffic not being able to pull off to the side to give way.

Isle of Wight County Volunteer Rescue Squad Chief Brian Carroll, who attended the meeting, said roughly 75% of his agency’s transport calls are non-emergencies.


How many vehicles will the hospital add?

The engineering firm Kimley-Horn, as of 2014, had estimated the then-proposed 280 single-family homes, 40 townhouses and roughly 80,000-square-foot medical office and hospital space would collectively generate 5,777 vehicle trips per day by 2020.

The 2014 study listed  the pre-bypass intersection as having a “C” grade level of service, or just over 30-second delay per car during peak travel hours in the morning, and an “E” level of service, or just over a minute and a half delay per car, in the afternoon peak. Building the bypass, the 2014 study estimated, would cut wait times to less than 20 seconds per car during the morning and afternoon peaks by 2020.

By 2017, with Benn’s Grant was approved for 560 residences and the bypass in use, a traffic count by Peggy Malone & Associates showed 2,319 vehicles traversing the redesigned Benn’s intersection from 6-8:45 a.m. and 4,841 vehicles traversing the intersection from 2-5:45 p.m.

In 2018, county supervisors approved adding another 216 homes to Benn’s Grant, bringing the total number of residences to 776.

Current plans for the hospital call for a roughly 200,000-square-foot building and an adjacent, detached 25,000-square-foot medical office building. Macalino estimates the two facilities will have a collective 200 employees, not all of whom will be on-site at the same time. The hospital will operate in multiple shifts 24 hours per day.

According to Yago, the Virginia Department of Transportation required an updated traffic study based on what’s currently proposed for the hospital site. That study, he said, was completed within the last six months.

The Smithfield Times has reached out to Riverside and to VDOT seeking a copy of the study.


When will construction begin?

Riverside held its groundbreaking ceremony for the hospital on July 26. According to Macalino, actual site work should begin in approximately four to six weeks.

For the duration of the construction, a fence will surround the hospital site. Riverside’s goal is to begin erecting steel by the first quarter of 2024.

Construction of the adjacent one-story medical office building is slated to begin in February and be complete by the first quarter of 2025, roughly a year ahead of the planned opening date for the hospital.