UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 30, 2007

RAF LAKENHEATH — Traffic entering the back gate at RAF Lakenheath will be rerouted through a housing area so drivers can access services and schools later this summer when construction begins on a new back entryway.

The 48th Civil Engineer Squadron is in the final phases of securing funds for the more-than- $1.4 million construction of a four-lane checkpoint inside base fences, at the intersection of Norwich Road and Lords Walk, said Lt. Col. Brian Murphy, commander of the 48th CES.

Though no exact start date for the project has been set, work will likely begin in the summer months, or about 30 days after the money is approved, an allocation Murphy said is imminent.

“We expect to see funding very soon,” he said.

When work does begin, incoming traffic will be rerouted down Exeter Crescent around the Lords Walk-Norwich Road four-way stop, re-entering Norwich Road near the Liberty Intermediate School. An exact traffic pattern has not yet been set, Murphy said.

Outbound traffic will be allowed to exit the base via Lords Walk throughout construction, he said.

The gate plan calls for the area around the Lords Walk-Norwich Road intersection to be widened into an uncovered entryway that will resemble the checkpoint at Gate 1 on the other side of base, Murphy said.

The plan is part of a greater effort to consolidate all U.S. assets on that side of the base on Ministry of Defense-run land, Murphy said. Currently, both the back gate and a large section of American-occupied homes called the Anglo housing area are on leased land outside the boundary of the RAF’s borders.

The new perimeter and fence line of the base eventually will fall at Radcliffe Road, on MOD land.

Work on the gate is expected to last about six months once construction begins, Murphy said. The base is also ensconced in number of other, smaller road projects, including an upcoming traffic circle at the complicated four-way intersection of Norwich and Plymouth roads near the Lakenheath Intermediate and High schools.

Shifting road access

After Sept. 11, 2001, RAF Lakenheath made quick efforts to shore up security around the perimeter, when it built the current Gate 2 — at a cost of $300,000 — and fenced in the Anglo housing area.

Next May, however, Radcliffe Road on the inside edge of Anglo housing will become public again, with other streets in the housing section likely to follow, said Lt. Col. Brian Murphy, commander of the 48th CES.

With public access to the roads returning and the lease on the Gate 2 land expiring this year, the base decided to reposition the gate and reset its fence line on Ministry of Defense property.

The gate construction was held up, however, in part because of ongoing struggles over public access to Lords Walk, the main access road on the back side of the base that was, until 2001, open to public traffic.

Local citizens and organized groups contested the base’s request to allow the military to take control of the road, but the matter was mostly solved in late 2005 when the Ministry of Transport allowed Lord’s Walk to be absorbed by the base.

Opposition by a walking group called the Ramblers Association over a public footpath that ran alongside the road continued until this spring, however, further complicating the gate construction.

The Ramblers decided to drop the litigious opposition earlier this year, however, when it decided to focus its case for open footpaths on a different path at RAF Mildenhall, called Footpath 28.

— Ben Murray

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