E'town considers closing Woodland Drive

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Property owners, businesses debate HMH's request

By Ben Sheroan

The fate of a state-financed project to redesign Cardinal Drive could rest on an upcoming decision by Eliza­bethtown City Council.

In an informational meeting Mon­day, the council heard from Hardin Memorial Health, which wants the city to close Woodland Drive immediately behind the hospital as part of the Cardinal Drive redesign.

Citing the ability to improve hospital access and safety for its emergency room dropoffs and ambulances, the hospital proposed closing Woodland Drive just north of Cardinal.

The hospital is being asked to surrender approximately 100 parking spaces to the road relocation. HMH CEO Dennis Johnson said the hospital board made it clear its willingness to provide the property is contingent on eliminating through traffic on Woodland.

“Our board sees this as a fair trade,” Johnson said. “If we’re going to give up significant prime real estate, we think this is only fair that the city closes Woodland at this point.”

The Cardinal Drive improvement, which would be built at city government’s direction with $2.71 million authorized by the General Assembly, would provide an improved link between North Dixie Avenue and the new U.S. 31W Bypass exit created as part of the Patriot Parkway construction.

Patriot Parkway, also designated as Ky. 361, is the link under development to connect Elizabethtown and Radcliff. Cardinal Drive would be realigned to curve around the south end of the hospital property and align with the traffic signal at Diecks Drive and North Dixie Avenue.

With a loss of parking spaces, Johnson said more hospital employees could be required to park across Woodland and face a daily hazard crossing the street, which carries more than 5,700 vehicles per day according to traffic studies.

“It’s like playing a game of Frog­ger getting across Woodland sometimes,” Johnson said.

He also told the council work session about one employee struck by a car while walking to work.

Property owners and business representatives along Woodland described inconveniences and loss of business related to losing visibility and traffic count provided by the through road.

Don Skeeters, a local attorney who surveyed the area on behalf of family members owning property on Woodland Drive, said access would be reduced for 63 businesses, including many medical facilities.

He also noted all traffic heading for Woodland from the south or west likely would be forced to access it from a more narrow residential street such as Long Avenue, Buford Drive and Gray Street.

Even residents from northern Hardin and Meade counties enjoying the benefits of Patriot Parkway could end up on a city street to visit their physician, Skeeters said.

He said the council also should consider the “great sacrifice” placed upon property owners if the city were to accommodate the county-owned hospital’s request.

Gary Hamm, owner of the Apothe­CARE pharmacies, including one facing Woodland immediately behind the hospital, sees the road closure as “devastating to our business.”

Dr. Mahendra Patel, who owns an office building near the hospital, encouraged the council to conduct an additional study, including an economic impact analysis of a potential closing.

City Engineer Scott Reynolds also exhibited an additional plan that could help divert traffic on and off Layman Lane immediately north of the hospital as a means to accommodate more of the displaced traffic. He said that idea is preliminary, calling it “a working plan at best.”

Ben Sheroan can be reached at 270-505-1764 or bsheroan@thenewsenterprise.com.