New Fort Gordon gate will accommodate growth, widen Gordon Highway
By Damon Cline
It will be months before traffic cones and construction crews appear near Fort Gordon’s future Gate 6, but the clearing of trees gives an unmistakable glimpse into the project’s massive scope.
The future entrance – designed to alleviate congestion on Gordon Highway and its connectors – will not only serve as the post’s primary gateway, but will be the main artery to the National Security Administration-Army Cyber Command complex on the installation’s west end.
The multiphase project is split into two segments: construction inside the post’s boundaries – work that is dependent on federal funding currently in flux – and Georgia Department of Transportation-administered improvements along Gordon Highway, also known as U.S. Highway 78.
Fort Gordon officials declined to comment on the gate until its construction budget is finalized, which won’t occur until Feb. 8 at the earliest, when the “continuing resolution” temporarily funding federal operations expires.
State officials, however, say bids on their portion of the project, which includes widening 2 1/2 miles of Gordon Highway to four lanes, will go out in March. Construction could commence 60 to 90 days later.
Improving access to the 25,000-employee installation won’t come cheap: The state puts its share of the cost at $18 million, about $1 million of which is from Richmond County’s 2015 SPLOST VII vote.
As for the federal side, an Army Corps of Engineers solicitation in December said the project will come in “between $25 million and $100 million.”
Local officials say the price of improving access to the region’s main economic engine will be money well spent.
Once complete, the gateway should keep cars from backing up on highways and surface streets and eliminate gridlock at the post’s busiest entrance – Gate 1 at Gordon Highway and Jimmie Dyess Parkway.
Tom Clark, executive director of the CSRA Alliance for Fort Gordon, the community’s main liaison to the post, said the other main north side entrances – the heavily traveled Gate 2 at Gordon Highway and Robinson Avenue and the rarely used Gate 3 to the west – would be closed.
That would leave Gates 1 and 6 on the north side and Gate 5 near Deans Bridge and Tobacco roads on the south side as the sole entry points, he said.
“Gates 2 and 3 will always be an asset to the post and will be utilized when necessary,” Clark said. “But the plan is that 33 percent will come in through Gate 5, 33 percent will come in through Gate 1, and 33 percent will come into the new Gate 6.”
Roughly 8,000 cars daily pass through the fort’s existing gates, which were designed before 9-11 and are manned by a security staff of roughly three dozen guards.
Though the improvements will widen the roadway, extend the right of way and remove a dilapidated railroad trestle near the Augusta State Medical Prison, the most substantial construction will occur about a mile into Fort Gordon’s interior.
Much like the entryways to theme parks, highway toll booths and other high-traffic destinations, Fort Gordon’s multilane access control point aims to reduce the number of vehicles stacking up outside the post. In addition to a separate commercial vehicle inspection station, the checkpoint will be capable of handling six lanes of traffic at a time.
“The staging area will relieve any kind of pressure on the main highway,” said Don Grantham, the District 12 representative on the State Transportation Board.
Early design plans showed the intersection being a two-lane roundabout, but the traffic circle concept was scrapped in favor of a more traditional T-shaped intersection, Grantham said.
“There will be enough lanes to feed off of it into the highway that it will move quickly without much stop and go,” he said.
Army renderings show its portion of the Gate 6 roadway connecting to 12th Street at 107th Avenue, providing a straight shot to the NSA/Army Cyber complex. Prior to the budget-delaying government shutdown, the first phase of the Army Cyber Command building was expected to be complete in May.
The second phase, which was scheduled for completion in early 2019, will house the Army Cyber Protection Brigade, whose personnel are currently spread throughout buildings in the east and central portions of the installation.
When completed, the 324,000-square-foot “Army Cyber Command Complex” will be linked to the 600,000-square-foot NSA center and will house a three-star command. The buildup is expected to bring 1,200 additional workers to the post by 2020 – the final wave of the nearly 5,000 military and civilian jobs that were created when the Pentagon decided in 2013 to relocate portions of Army Cyber Command from Fort Meade, Md., and Fort Belvoir, Va., to Fort Gordon.
Though the new gate construction is designed to reduce commute times for existing and future fort employees, Clark said delays are inevitable once the work begins.
“The times to work will be increased at first before they are decreased,” Clark said. “So we just ask them to be patient.”
Article originally posted on The Augusta Chronicle.