GARNER — Construction of the $20 million WakeMed health care complex on U.S. 70 is set to start next month, putting the hospital on a schedule to open in April 2013.
The Garner Town Council gave its final approval for the project Monday, when it agreed to rezone the 20-acre site across from the Agri-Supply store and issued WakeMed a special-use permit.
The WakeMed Healthplex in Garner will be a 50,000-square-foot facility and will serve as the base for all of WakeMed's medical helicopter operations, said Tom Cavender, vice president for facilities and construction.
The facility will feature a 14-bed emergency department and radiology and lab services, along with physicians' offices. It will create about 150 jobs, Cavender said.
WakeMed expects to treat 12,000 to 15,000 people in the emergency department the first year, he said. By the 10th year, that number is expected to swell to 27,000.
"We anticipate quite a busy service in this area," Cavender said.
He said WakeMed, which opened an emergency department in Raleigh's Brier Creek area in January, chose to build in Garner partly because of the town's easy access to Interstate 40.
"We're in a growing population in Garner," Cavender said.
WakeMed currently has six emergency departments throughout Wake County. The hospital system hopes to open another facility in eastern Wake County in 2014, Cavender said.
Most of WakeMed's helicopter flights will take off in Garner once the new facility opens. Cavender said that he expects about one flight per day and that the flight paths will aim to avoid residential areas.
Garner's elected leaders touted the project as progress for the town, where for years many residents have coveted an emergency department.
"Hopefully this starts to bring some more positive recognition to our town," Councilman Ken Marshburn said.
To ease traffic, the project will include road improvements on U.S. 70 in front of the new medical center, town planner Brad Bass said. A new street will intersect with U.S. 70 and serve as the hospital's main traffic entrance. The N.C. Department of Transportation will likely approve a traffic signal at the new intersection, Bass said.
The town plans to spend $6 million to make upgrades to U.S. 70 near the I-40 interchange in anticipation of new development there, including a 180-room hotel that is expected to open in 2014.