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Articles / 2008

New hospital could improve streets, traffic
Ideas offered at meetings in Ventura

Ventura County Star
Thursday, April 24, 2008
By Tom Kiske

A roundabout could eventually replace the maze of traffic lights at Ventura's busy Five Points intersection. Shoppers could walk through a midtown swath of Main Street decorated with new trees and new businesses. A 600-space parking structure could be built, along with at least one new park.

Ideas and proposals are being offered and debated this week in ongoing public meetings on the traffic, parking and development effects of plans to build a new Community Memorial Hospital. The six-story hospital would sit alongside Cabrillo Drive parallel to the existing campus and is fueled by state requirements mandating hospitals meet earthquake standards by 2013.

The project, along with anticipated retrofitting at Ojai Valley Community Hospital, could cost $275 million. Construction could begin in two years. The existing hospital building would remain and might be used for office space, administration, laboratories and other services not covered by seismic regulations.

The planning meetings will be held through Friday and are the first of several steps in the city of Ventura's approval process. Aimed at city officials, area businesses and midtown residents, the meetings are designed to gather public input on how the hospital project can best fit the community.

As people offer ideas on traffic, green space and plans to revitalize the Five Points area, engineers and architects work on drawings in the back of the room that show how the proposals might look.

Architects leading the meetings said the ideas aren't yet finalized but will evolve throughout the week. They will emerge in a proposal to the city.

For many area residents, the biggest issue is keeping hospital visitors from parking in their neighborhoods. They worry too about the beeline of cars headed to Community Memorial, Ventura County Medical Center or nearby medical offices.

"I almost got killed crossing Loma Vista once," said area resident Steve Maheux, who is encouraged by a proposal to create new routes to the hospital. "I really like the idea of the traffic flow coming off Main Street."

In a meeting Tuesday night, architect David Sargent introduced the possibility of two entries to the hospital off Main. He said the need for a second hospital parking structure is being explored, with the possibility of a 600-space structure in what is now a public parking lot behind Main.

Architects are suggesting traffic flow at the Five Points intersection might be improved with a large roundabout. Cars would move one way around a circular island with access to Main, Telegraph, Brent and Thompson streets. A second roundabout could be created at Loma Vista and Main streets.

Sargent said the roundabouts aren't part of the hospital project but are a suggestion to the city of how a confusing traffic maze might be improved in the future and motorists could avoid long red lights and confusing turns.

Diane Moon, who lives about a mile from the hospital, worried that a roundabout will confuse drivers. She said people might detour into area neighborhoods just to avoid one.

Architects and engineers at Tuesday's meeting introduced the possibility of adding a large park just behind Main Street, in front of the new hospital. They said the additional parking and an improved sense of connection between the hospital and Five Points could bring new retail business. Sargent described a shopper and pedestrian friendly area where traffic might slow to about 20 mph.

"I think it's a very good catalyst to increase the vitality of the whole area," said Dan Long, a member of the Midtown Ventura Community Council.

The state seismic regulations are driving hospital construction plans throughout California. Officials of Ventura County Medical Center, located several blocks from Community Memorial, are still developing plans to strengthen or rebuild a patient wing built in the 1950s.