BURLINGTON - The Lahey Clinic Foundation, Inc. earned a long-awaiting approval during the most recent Planning Board meeting capping off the final aspect of Lahey Hospital & Medical Center’s massive expansion project that began over six years ago.

The recent Planning Board approvals pertained the construction of a permanent helideck at Lahey Hospital & Medical Center on Burlington Mall Road.

The project is made up of a special permit and site plan, and will result in a new helideck closer to the hospital’s emergency room. This is an upgrade to the existing helipad because it will enable the hospital to reduce transfer times by not having to rely on elevator transport from the roof to the emergency room. The project also calls for a modest expansion of 365 square-feet to the existing MRI service building.

The existing helipad is located at 33 Burlington Mall Road, as previously approved by the planners in 2016.

“While this helipad location has met the ongoing needs for MedFlight transport, Lahey intends to replace this with a permanent helideck proximate to the emergency room. Although originally envisioned to be located on the roof of the building, this proposed helideck location will enable Lahey to reduce transfer times by not having to rely upon elevator transport from the roof to the emergency room,” explained Local attorney Mark Vaughan, of Riemer & Braunstein, representing the Lahey Clinic Foundation, Inc. “In addition, the existing MRI service building will undergo a modest expansion (365-square-foot) to support the replacement of existing equipment and supporting patient service area.”

The new helideck will be 18-ft. off the ground, which means no elevator and escort from the Burlington Fire Department would be needed, unlike the helipad that was previously located on Kimball Avenue (in the far rear of the Lahey campus). This helipad is expected to be seeded and turned back into green-space.

With the location of the new helideck, a helicopter would arrive via the same flight path with the top prerogative of avoiding residential neighborhoods. The set flight path uses Rt. 128 as its traveling lane, which was confirmed by Lahey. However, “sometimes” flight paths change, depending on the wind and how hard it’s blowing.

When departing Lahey, the helicopter completes a u-turn maneuver to get back along the Rt. 128 corridor. The rendering Lahey showed encapsulating this u-turn maneuver worried several Planning Board members, primarily because the model showed the path getting a little closer to the nearby Laurel Lane neighborhood than expected. The rendering revealed the u-turn shown is a “worst-case scenario” when it comes to high winds when leaving Lahey.

However, during this meeting, representatives from Boston MedFlight confirmed the return flight path from the Lahey helipad will see the helicopter easily able to make its u-turn to Route 128 without having to cross Burlington Mall Road. This was previously the only concern raised by the planners throughout the permit and site plan process for this project, so last night’s development adequately addressed the board’s worries.

The planners did convey happiness in seeing Lahey’s emergency room and helideck project come to fruition within the last six years.

“This is a long time coming,” stated Planning Board Vice Chair Joseph Impemba. “It is nice to see the project come full circle.”

Back in 2016, when the hospital’s new emergency room was completed, Lahey’s timeline had the new helideck being erected in 2020/2021, so they are right on schedule with last night’s approvals.

“This will be a big benefit for your patients,” declared Planning Board Chair Barbara L’Heureux. “I am really glad the process is moving forward.”

The planners voted unanimously to approve the special permit and site plan applications.

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