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Healthplex Expands Access Routes

Inova Healthplex in Springfield is improving their access with a west-bound entrance on the Springfield-Franconia Parkway, east of Springfield Mall.

The emergency medical facility will be accessible to all vehicles heading westbound on the parkway from Kingstowne, and for eastbound emergency vehicles only, by jumping the curb and crossing the island. When the facility opened, the only access was via Beulah Street entrance near the Laurel Grove Baptist Church.

Inova spokesperson Lisa Wolfington said the improvement was in the original emergency center plans and part of the county comprehensive plan in 1998-1999.

"THE ACCESS was planned from the beginning of the project, the construction work had to be reviewed by county and the VDOT [Virginia Department of Transportation] and it took much longer than they anticipated," she said.

The speed limit on that stretch of the parkway is 50 mph but seeing cars traveling faster is not uncommon. Although Inova officials would like a traffic light for the Healthplex, it is not in the plan. The emergency vehicle provision is designed to relieve that need.

"They have a provision where an ambulance could cross the median, only emergency vehicles," Wolfington said, "we would prefer a traffic light but the county plan only allows for a right-in, right-out," meaning the westbound traffic turning right off the parkway.

Supervisor Dana Kauffman's (D-Lee) chief of staff Jeff McKay noted the status of the parkway.

"The Fairfax County Parkway is a limited access roadway. It would need approval from the Commonwealth Transportation Board to break a median," he said. That board is statewide and governor-appointed in Richmond.

The decision to allow vehicles to enter from right-in, right-out and emergency vehicles to jump the median is final and a traffic light is no longer being considered, according to McKay. He used the engineering term "grass crete" for the surface of the median the vehicles would be crossing. He described it as a concrete grid.

"It's a somewhat solid surface that emergency vehicles can travel on, a concrete grid type of thing," he said.

THE EMERGENCY CENTER opened in April 2001. According to Wolfington, they had 3,000 patients brought in by ambulance from April to December 2001 and 16,435 emergency room patients total over that time. In comparison, Inova Fairfax gets 67,000 emergency patients a year, Wolfington said.

"That's comparable to what was expected," she said.