TAMPA ó Long-delayed plans for a new $148.6 million medical housing unit at the James A. Haley VA Medical Center have finally been approved by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.The 245,000-square-building will be designed to provide 96 medical surgical single-patient rooms, 40 intensive care unit beds and room for office space, said Shayna Rodriguez, a Haley spokeswoman.Called a "bed tower," the building will be located east of the main hospital, Rodriguez said in a news release, and is expected to be completed by 2021.The project was awarded to Turner Construction Co./Page Southerland Page Inc. of New York.Funding for the project first was authorized in 2015. U.S. Reps. Kathy Castor, the Tampa Democrat, and Dennis Ross, the Lakeland Republican, wrote a letter in October to VA Secretary David Shulkin asking why it was taking so long.In an email statement Wednesday to the Tampa Bay Times, Castor said she is glad to see the project finally awarded but will continue to monitor its progress."Our veterans deserve and have earned the best of what our country has to offer," Castor said, "and it is our duty to ensure they are honored as such."An existing pedestrian bridge between James A. Haley and the University of South Florida will be partially demolished and reconfigured to provide a new connection to the tower and passage to the main hospital, according to the release."We are thrilled for this project to get started so that our veterans can enjoy the private rooms they deserve," Joe Battle, the hospitalís director, said in a news release. "Their care and comfort is our top priority, and private rooms are essential to a therapeutic, healing environment." Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman.