Commander hopeful Robins entry will get better

wcrenshaw@macon.comMarch 12, 2014 

Starting Monday, changes will be made to the Russell Parkway gate at Robins Air Force Base in an effort to make it faster to enter the base.

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WARNER ROBINS -- In the nine months he has served as commander of the 78th Mission Support Group at Robins Air Force Base, one of the top issues Col. Chris Decker has faced is the wait time at entrance gates.

During peak hours, the average wait is 15 to 30 minutes, with the Russell Parkway gate being one of the worst.

A couple of upcoming changes have him optimistic that the problem may be about to finally get better. He hopes the average wait time will shrink to less than 15 minutes.

On Monday, the base will implement a major change at the Russell gate, its busiest entrance. From 6-8 a.m. two outbound lanes will become inbound lanes. The latest traffic count shows about 3,000 vehicles coming through the Russell gate during that time period.

“What we are trying to do is solve a persistent problem,” Decker said.

Also, in about a week or two the Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard gate will reopen following a resurfacing project.

When the Russell change happens Monday, the Air National Guard gate on the north end of the base will close. Those personnel will shift to Russell to handle the additional lanes.

It might seem the Russell change wouldn’t help if another gate is closing as a result. But Decker said the Air National Guard gate is normally closed anyway and has only been open while the Martin Luther King gate has been closed. The Air National Guard gate was going to close when the MLK gate reopened, regardless of the change at Russell.

The end result will be two additional lanes opened to enter the base.

As traffic approaches the Russell gate, vehicles in the left lane will divert into the two lanes that are normally outbound. After entering the base, cones will direct those lanes back into the regular lanes.

Decker said he doesn’t believe there will be an issue with the traffic merging back. As drivers stop to have identifications checked, it creates breaks in the traffic that should aid with the merging, Decker said.

“There may be a little congestion the first couple of days as people get used to it,” he said. “I expect once people get used to this we are not going to have any kind of issue.”

For now the Russell change is a test, but if it works, it will become permanent. Decker said it has been done successfully at other bases.

In the past when the base does work at one gate, it does the same work at all, one at a time. Robins workers don’t have to worry about that this time. Decker said the work at the Martin Luther King gate is only for that entrance.

People who approach the base from the south on Ga. 247 typically go through the Russell gate. Once the MLK gate reopens, Decker suggested they might want to try going on up to that gate if the Russell gate looks backed up.

Generally, he said, traffic is about the same at all of the gates. At times any of the gates can get backed up more than others for random reasons, he said. One example is a commercial truck attempting to enter at a gate other than the commercial gate. The vehicle has to be turned around and sent to the commercial gate, which can snarl traffic.

From past history when gates have closed, Decker said the MLK gate could be a good choice for a while because traffic tends to be low when a gate reopens.

To contact writer Wayne Crenshaw, call 256-9725.

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