Construction at the site of the new Veterans Affairs clinic in Lafayette is on track to open in late 2016, agency officials said Monday.
Site clearing and grading work at 3131 Ambassador Caffery Parkway is complete, and workers have started erecting the steel for the structure, said Tammie Arnold, VA public affairs officer.
The anticipated completion date of construction is fall 2016 and the new clinic is expected to open to veterans by late 2016, Arnold said.
The project is long overdue after it was stalled over botched paperwork and later over technicalities involving VA leases.
The clinic will nearly triple the size of the existing facility at Jefferson Street and Pinhook Road. The lease for the new clinic was initially awarded in 2012, but was stalled because of paperwork errors. Later, the clinic hit another obstacle due to a change in how the government tallied VA leases, which created a logistical bottleneck for other planned VA projects across the U.S. that wasn’t resolved until 2014 when the projects received congressional authorization.
A local veterans group — the Veterans Action Coalition of South Louisiana — organized about five years ago to lobby for expanded health services in Acadiana and continues to keep tabs on the new Lafayette’s new clinic.
While getting the clinic authorized was a slow process, construction seems to be moving along smoothly, said Tom Grote, co-chairman of the coalition.
“They’re putting the steel up as we speak. They’re still waiting on some permits,” Grote said.
The group is now focused on improving access to the site, which is located off the heavily trafficked Ambassador Caffery Parkway and across from a Wal-Mart.
While there is a traffic light to help address traffic entering and exiting Wal-Mart and the adjacent shopping center at Curran Lane, another traffic light will be needed closer to the clinic’s entrance, Grote said.
“We need to put a light there or it will be terrible for people trying to turn,” he said. “We did meet with the incoming (Lafayette) Mayor-President Joel Robideaux and expressed our concerns.”
Grote said there are discussions about providing additional access to the clinic site using neighborhood streets that would connect to Belle Fontaine Street and then to Westmark Boulevard to help divert traffic to Johnston Street.
“That’s our big concern now — to get veterans in and out of there safely,” he said.
The coalition continues to meet monthly and provides status updates on the project. The group next meets at 7 p.m. Jan. 26 at the South Regional Library, 6101 Johnston St.
Follow Marsha Sills on Twitter, @Marsha_Sills.