MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Starting Thursday, many Misawa motorists will encounter detour signs on their daily commutes.

An L-shaped portion of Friendship and Falcon drives, starting at the Richard Bong Theater and ending at the traffic signal in front of the shoppette, will be closed through July 31 for a steam-line project. Traffic will be rerouted around one of the busiest intersections on base, by the officer and enlisted clubs, said 35th Civil Engineer Squadron officials.

Drivers should expect “a great deal of pain in the first couple of days, so plan accordingly,” said James Einwaechter, deputy civil engineer.

The road closure is part of a Japanese government-funded facilities improvement project. It’s phase three of a basewide effort to replace and upgrade underground, aging steam pipes that supply heat to base facilities and military housing.

Civil Engineer officials said that, at the Japanese government’s request, they would not release the project cost.

The Friendship-Falcon construction will install new steam lines to reroute existing ones that are more than 25 years old, said Capt. Mathew Duston, Engineering Flight commander. Previous construction replaced steam lines behind the Torii building, near Risner Circle and on Falcon Drive by Burger King. Various phases are planned for at least two more years.

The project’s long-term benefits are better energy efficiency and a more reliable system needing less maintenance, officials said.

The pipes to be rerouted during the phase starting Thursday cut perpendicular through the sections of Friendship and Falcon roads to be closed. Base officials said they considered closing one section of road at a time or maintaining one-way traffic through the area, but either alternative would have doubled construction time and significantly increased the project’s cost.

The primary detour for vehicles headed east, past the post office on Falcon Drive toward Falcon Gate, will be through the former Lemon Lot — now behind the Misawa Red Cross. Cars headed to the Main Gate from the post office intersection can use Selfridge street past the shoppette. Motorists are asked to not cut through the clubs’ parking lot or use the emergency vehicle lane behind the facility. Security forces will ticket those they catch doing so, Duston said.

Other changes during the detour period include reduced parking at Richard Bong Theater; no parking on Selfridge street by the post office and Thrift Shop; and stop signs on Sheppard and Friendship roads for southbound traffic headed away from the flight line.

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Jennifer reports on the U.S. military from Kaiserslautern, Germany, where she writes about the Air Force, Army and DODEA schools. She’s had previous assignments for Stars and Stripes in Japan, reporting from Yokota and Misawa air bases. Before Stripes, she worked for daily newspapers in Wyoming and Colorado. She’s a graduate of the College of William and Mary in Virginia.

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