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Dartmouth-Hitchcock gets OK to start construction on patient tower before completing traffic improvements

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 5/31/2020 9:16:09 PM
Modified: 5/31/2020 9:16:34 PM

LEBANON — Construction of a $130 million patient tower at Dartmouth-Hitchcock Medical Center can now get underway after city officials last week reapproved plans for the hospital expansion.

Lebanon’s Planning Board voted unanimously Monday evening to allow DHMC to reshuffle its plans so that work on the five-story building can precede promised traffic improvements.

The decision came after City Manager Shaun Mulholland unveiled a proposal to create an assessment district that would charge developers and landowners for traffic upgrades.

The district, which would require City Council approval, could split costs between DHMC and several multifamily developments planned for Mount Support Road.

Tom Goins, D-H’s vice president of facilities, said during Monday’s meeting that the hospital “continues to be committed” to reducing traffic and repairing intersections.

But, he added, solving those traffic challenges will take more time than initially thought.

The hospital last month said it hopes to start construction of the roughly 200,000-square-foot expansion in June, but couldn’t while city officials planned a combined traffic project that includes other developers.

That’s because D-H’s original January site plan approval required it to submit traffic plans before the structure can obtain a building permit.

The Planning Board’s newest decision reverses that by allowing the hospital to move forward with the tower and push off the traffic plans until work is nearly complete.

In several past meetings, board members have expressed the need for the hospital and developers to contribute to traffic, pedestrian and bicycle upgrades that are expected to be needed in the coming year.

Along with the patient tower, the board is reviewing a 309-unit development intended to house Dartmouth College graduate students in four apartment buildings at 401 Mount Support Road, as well as plans to build 250 apartments pitched by Massachusetts-based developer Saxon Partners on an abutting piece of land.

Meanwhile, Vermont-based developer The Braverman Co. has previously floated plans to build two buildings at 402 Mount Support Road, each housing 48 to 50 units and offering underground or covered parking.

Mount Support Road, which parallels Route 120, is also home to the 252-unit Timberwood Commons apartment complex.

On Monday, Goins attempted to assure city officials that DHMC will pay its fair share, pointing to a nearly $822,000 effort to upgrade bike and pedestrian access along Layahe Drive as evidence of the hospital’s commitment to the Route 120 corridor.

Dartmouth College, D-H and the city have partnered together to fund about $160,000 of the project, while the rest will be picked up by the state.

However, Goins said, more time is needed to plan a fix for the Layahe Drive and Mount Support intersection just outside the hospital. Planners say the intersection may not function properly with increased traffic projected by the hospital expansion and new developments.

“We need some time to figure out how we can design the mitigation to this failed intersection, how we can achieve objectives of the desired ped/bicycle lanes and how we can attribute the expense in a fair manner,” Goins said. “But we’re committed to the objectives.”

Lebanon Planning Director David Brooks said Friday that improvements at the Layahe Drive and Mount Support intersection are estimated to cost about $2.5 million, but he declined to say what action that would entail.

Tim Camerato can be reached at tcamerato@vnews.com or 603-727-3223.




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