LOUISVILLE, Ky. — If you drive down the Watterson Expressway near exit 22, there’s a large plot of dirt you’ll likely see, with some dirt hills sprinkled about.

While it may not look like much, it’s actually what 5% completion looks like on the new Robley Rex Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, which is expected to be completed in early 2026.

What You Need To Know

  • Construction is underway of the new Louisville Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center, located next to the City of Crossgate in Jefferson County

  • The project, which was initially conceptualized in 2007, is currently 5% complete

  • Currently, the ground is being leveled, and at the end of March the foundation is expected to be started

  • The new Robley Rex VA Medical Center is expected to be finished in 2026

Registered Nurse Debra Hunt wears many hats as the associate director for patient care services at VA Louisville Health Care. In that role, Hunt leads administrative and clinical departments, such as nursing service, infection and disease prevention and chaplain service.

In 2014, Hunt added another hat to her list of duties when she became the project coordinator of a team assembled by the Department of Veteran’s Affairs to coordinate the new Louisville VA Medical Center, which was initially conceptualized in 2007. 

“It was a great opportunity to have the input from a nurse who has taken care of patients at the bedside, plus in clinics and other areas of the hospital, to know firsthand what you really need,” Hunt explained. “We have amazing engineers, and we have amazing contractors, but having that clinical information definitely helps.”

Hunt said she’s been involved firsthand with planning the space, design and now the construction of the new VA hospital, which will replace the Robley Rex VA Medical Center, which opened in 1952.

Hunt added that the new hospital will be 300,000 square feet larger.

Initially conceptualized in 2006, the new VA hospital broke ground on Veterans’ Day last year. It took about 15 years to break ground because of major delays, from location approval to a dismissed lawsuit filed by the neighboring city of Crossgate.

Tim Hitchcock, senior engineer at the construction site, said the focus right now is on final grading.

“As the site was naturally laying too low in areas and too high in other areas. So we are doing what’s called ‘cut and fill,’ cutting in areas that need to be reduced in elevation, and then bringing the other areas up, to build the grade up,” the Area Engineer for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers explained.

Hitchcock said so far the project’s schedule is going well, with no setbacks so far. With the hospital’s foundation expected to be started by the end of March, Hitchcock said soon drivers along the Watterson Expressway will start seeing the first remnants of the hospital. 

“After that, things will really just be rockin’ and rollin’ out here because that’s when you start getting a lot more trades working simultaneously,” Hitchcock said. 

A key part to make sure construction stays on track, Hitchcock said, is creating an on site drainage system, which is also currently underway. Hitchcock explained that system will make sure construction continues into the spring, when there is more rain.

Patient rooms at the new hospital, Hunt explained, will be about twice as big as the ones at Robley Rex, with pullout beds for a patient’s visitors and caretakers. Departments such as physical therapy and prosthetics will be located on the first floor—to make it easier for veterans to move around. Hunt said veterans’ healing is also top of mind with the building’s design.

“There are a lot of windows throughout because evidence tells us if you have an environment that is a healing, environment with brighter colors, more sunshine, people are going to heal quicker,” she said. 

That’s something Hunt said we owe our veterans.

If you’re interested to learn more about the new Robley Rex VA Medical Center, visit the fiuture hospital’s website.