RICHMOND, Va. — Battling delays brought on by sequestration-related cuts, Fort Lee officials announced Monday that they’re expanding gate hours by shifting law-enforcement personnel to gate duty.
The changes, effective immediately, will open the Lee Avenue Gate on Fridays and at lunchtime, open the A Avenue Gate on Fridays and open the Shop Road Gate to commercial vehicles during the workweek.
“We understand the public frustrations,” said Maj. David C. Martin, the Fort Lee provost marshal. “We’re doing everything we can to try to benefit the community while still working in our allowable limits.”
Authorities had already been using Fort Lee police to augment coverage at the gates, Martin said, but now officials will increase their use.
That will increase the number of hours people have the ability to access the base, which Martin said he expects to reduce traffic congestion.
“We’re doing all that we can,” he said.
At the same time, the wait time for calls to law enforcement for service will likely increase, as officers are taken away from law-enforcement duties for gate duty, Martin said. Emergency response will still be prioritized, he said.
Martin said a change last October from contractor guards to Army-employed guards resulted in a reduction in the number of guards, and that not all of the new guard positions are currently filled. On top of that, he said, sequestration has required cuts, with a ban on borrowing military manpower to fill the gaps.
As wait times have increased, so has frustration, he said.
“The impact of that schedule was evident on July 12, the first of 11 weekly furlough days,” read a news release from the base. “Some motorists were stuck in a line of post-bound traffic for close to an hour during the morning commute. That situation, on top of the delays during lunch hours each weekday, is a cause of growing concern and frustration among those who work or reside on Fort Lee.”
Martin said officials are encouraging people to do what they can to minimize wait times: using less frequently used gates to enter the base (the Mahone Avenue Gate, for example), carpooling and eating lunch on-post.
The cuts are expected to last until the end of September, according to the release.