RAF MILDENHALL, England — A plan to increase the size and capacity of the Child Development Center at RAF Mildenhall also will create a safer crossing on the busy highway between the base and the center.

A $3.6 million project is about to start that will allow the center to bump up the number of children it can accept by more than 50 percent.

“We’ll be able to provide care for 98 additional children,” said Melinda Camp, the center director. Currently, the center has 173 children and is unable to accept more because of space limitations.

The center serves families at both RAF Mildenhall and RAF Lakenheath, a few miles away. The center at RAF Lakenheath is also at capacity, Camp said.

The annex will include more than 11,000 square feet and provide the center with seven additional classrooms, a modern kitchen and enlarged administrative and training areas.

“We’ll have about 25 more staff,” Camp said, to provide care for the additional children.

Work will begin in mid-February, said Capt. Derek Ferland, 100th Civil Engineer Squadron engineering flight commander.

“We’ll probably target December for the handover,” he said.

A key to the upgrade is a crosswalk on the A1101 highway that runs between the center and base and on through Beck Row, the village that is home for the base.

Currently, there is no crosswalk of any type on the road despite heavy use by parents taking children to and from the center and by others from the base going to town to use the post office, shops and pubs. They rely on the good will of drivers to stop and let them cross.

“It’s not safe,” Camp said. “People fly through there.”

The speed limit is 30 miles per hour, but many drivers exceed that posted limit. A couple years ago, a girl was injured when a car struck her while she was crossing the highway.

Also, the entrance to the center is midway between two curves, which means drivers unexpectedly come upon backed up traffic as people come and go from the center at busy times of the day.

Ferland said the road would be widened as part of the project to provide a turning lane, which should diminish the amount of traffic stopped on the highway.

The cost is $560,000 for the crosswalk and road widening, he said, but the Air Force needed special approval from Congress to use military dollars for the project.

“We don’t own the 1101. It’s a British highway,” he said.

The project is now awaiting local approval of the plan. Ferland said work should start soon and the crosswalk may be in use in March.

The crosswalk will include button-activated traffic lights to stop vehicles, Ferland said.

Also, speed reduction signs and textured road surfacing will warn drivers of the crosswalk.

Camp said parents would be asked to park on base when possible and walk across the highway to the center once the crosswalk is in use. That, she said, will lighten the traffic in and out of the center. The current situation is too dangerous for that.

“We won’t ask our kids and parents to do that now,” she said.

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