After years of hoping, new main gate at Fort Eustis is coming
By DAVE RESS | Daily Press | Published: September 1, 2020
NEWPORT NEWS, Va. (Tribune News Service) — After years of worrying that a tight fit for Fort Eustis’ main gate could put the base at risk in any future round of base closings, there’s a plan for new entrance that meets the Army’s standards for security and Newport News’ hopes for traffic relief.
Design is underway now for a new gate, and the plan is to complete construction by the fall of 2023, Fort Eustis spokesman Greg Wade said.
City officials have been working for years — so far without success — to nail down state funding to secure enough space around a new gate. The Army has funds for design and construction.
The city had asked for money to help it purchase land, aiming for a large eight-lane gate, said intergovernmental affairs manager Jerri Wilson.
The plan was to build on land, some owned by the city, some privately held. Now, the idea is a a five-lane project, all on city land, Wilson said.
The project will include a new visitors center, ID check points on each inbound lane, a canopy for car and truck inspections, new lighting and a improved traffic pattern, Wade said.
Space has been a worry because the Lee’s Mill neighborhood is less than 1,000 feet away from the main gate, and the Army standard calls for a 1,000-foot anti-terrorism buffer zone. Lee’s Mill residents within that 1,000-foot zone need to be notified, and possibly evacuated, if a suspicious package arrives at the gate.
In addition, the main electric substation for Fort Eustis is just to the south of the main gate. And the gate’s location next to the fence along Dozier Road raises safety and security concerns as well.
The gate is heavily used, too — and if it is closed for more than just 10 minutes, traffic can back up all the way to Interstate 64.
The city still wants some financial help from the state, much like the match funding that it has offered other localities to avoid encroachment on military bases, such as Hampton’s purchases of land for an expanded clear zone around Langley Air Force Base.
Even although the five-lane gate will be on city-owned land, it will isolate some nearby private parcels somewhat, and trying to avoid incompatible use on those parcels could be a challenge, Wilson said.
The city asked for $375,000 from the state to match its similar commitment to acquire that land. Budget amendments offered this year by state Sen. Monty Mason, D-Williamsburg, and Delegates Mike Mullin, D-Newport News, didn’t make into the final budget, however.
The two, joined by Del. Shelly Simonds, D-Newport News, have since been pushing the the Northam administration to include funding for the city’s anti-encroachment efforts around the gate.