FORT BENNING, Ga. — Traffic pattern changes, gate upgrades and the opening of Harmony Church’s Access Control Point should improve rush-hour commutes across the installation in the near future, Directorate of Emergency Services officials said Friday.
Police chief Kevin Clarke said with major construction and facility moves ongoing to accommodate Fort Benning’s massive growth, constant adjustments are needed to avoid traffic jams and other problems for the more than 33,000 motorists who pass through the post’s ACPs every day.
With people leaving post after work, traffic used to back up from Riverside past Doughboy Stadium on Vibbert Avenue because of vehicles turning left off South Lumpkin Road. A new setup at the intersection now requires drivers on South Lumpkin to stay to the far right, and those wanting to turn face a stop sign.
“That has virtually all but ended the backup in the afternoons,” said DES traffic supervisor Kevin Sparks. “It’s had a significant impact. Vibbert traffic now flows freely onto Lumpkin.”
ACP 1 closure, Benning-Custer modifications
Closing ACP 1 on South Lumpkin Road allowed authorities to resequence the traffic light at the intersection of Benning Boulevard and Custer Road. The longer green light has led to better flow from Vibbert and Lumpkin out Custer Road and the Benning “Stone” Gate, or ACP 2.
After ACP 1 was shut down, morning peak hour traffic at the Benning “Stone” Gate increased by 114 percent, according to a two-week ACP study by DES between Oct. 24 and Nov. 6. But the surge hasn’t led to more congestion because the new Benning-Custer intersection offers a green light to all through traffic going toward Main Post.
Bottleneck at Victory Drive?
Fort Benning authorities are working with the city of Columbus on a possible change to the traffic light at Benning Boulevard and Victory Drive, Sparks said. With more motorists departing out ACP 2 and only one left turning lane where the two roads meet, it’s caused some worry about vehicles backing up.
As a temporary fix, the city agreed to keep the turn arrow green longer.
Officials from Columbus and the post are now digitally counting the number of vehicles that take this route as part of a study to determine whether a second turn lane is needed. Sparks said it began in late October and should be completed sometime next week.
24-hour exit access at ACP 5B
Workers on Monday will begin installing a tire shredder, or “Tigers Teeth,” at ACP 5B — the northernmost gate on Custer Road — to allow 24/7 outbound traffic. DES patrol branch chief Tim Stevens said it’s expected to be operational by Dec. 15.
“That’ll save about five miles for drill sergeants and other people leaving Sand Hill,” he said.
Kelley Hill traffic fix
With the 3rd Heavy Brigade Combat Team home from Iraq, Fort Benning police used borrowed Soldier manpower to reopen ACP 6 on weekdays near Kelley Hill at the intersection of Marne Road and U.S. Route 27/280.
The gate, which first opened three weeks ago, has dumped about 600 vehicles away from the area around the Post Exchange, commissary, Maneuver Captains Career Course and hospital during high-volume periods, Stevens said.
“It sends Kelley Hill traffic a different direction,” he said. “The intent is for it to alleviate Soldiers having to wait in traffic near the PX and commissary and get them off Kelley Hill as quickly as possible.”
Stevens said it’s closed on weekends and holidays and will be locked down entirely during Sledgehammer Brigade’s 30-day block leave, which runs through the end of December. It should reopen sometime after the new year
Meanwhile, crews have begun widening the bridge on Marne Road over Interstate 185 to four lanes. New red lights will help facilitate turns. Officials said the project should be finished by the end of 2011.
The new $333.4 million, 745,000-square-foot Martin Army Community Hospital is slated to receive a dedicated exit ramp off I-185. Plans are in the study phase now to see how it fits into the traffic picture.
Harmony Church Gate opening
The new five-lane ACP accessing Harmony Church off U.S. Route 27/280 is nearing completion, DES officials said. The state-of-the-art facility will be the largest at Fort Benning, but an opening date hasn’t been announced.
Sparks said it features separate inspection points for trucks and cars and a Visitor’s Center with more parking than the I-185 ACP.
Dixie Road update
The speed limit on Dixie Road has dropped to 25 mph throughout as work continues on widening the major post artery. It used to be up to 45 mph is some spots. Two-way traffic will be maintained between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., but authorities said minor delays are possible at other times. Temporary lights are being put up along the route so work can continue at night.
As construction unfolds, it’s expected to increase congestion elsewhere on post starting in early January as more drivers pile through the Benning “Stone” Gate and take side streets around Dixie Road during peak times, Sparks said.
When completed sometime in early spring 2012, Dixie Road will run four lanes with a divided median from I-185 to Smith Fitness Center. It’ll drop to three lanes from there to Lawson Army Airfield.
No slowing down
The buildup’s pace won’t slow any in the coming years. U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects are scheduled at Fort Benning through 2017.
“All of it will cause more traffic for now,” said DES operations officer Joseph LaBranche. “This construction has been a long time coming for infrastructure improvements. It will eventually lead to improved traffic conditions for everybody.”