Originally created 08/29/98

Tighter security at base causing delays



Fort Gordon drivers are seeing red.

It's the constant flash of red brake lights, blinking like turn signals, as cars creep toward the fort's entrance gates.

Since security was heightened at the base last week, drivers without Fort Gordon registration stickers have found themselves idling in long lines waiting to get on post.

Fort visitors who once breezed past the gate guards toward their destination are now reporting waits between 15 to 45 minutes throughout the day.

Around 8 a.m. Thursday, for example, the snake of cars stretched about 3 miles, from the McKenna Gate 1 guard house to the left-turn lanes on Gordon Highway.

However, there was virtually no wait at Gate 2, located a few miles farther west on Gordon Highway.

Because of recent terrorist attacks against American facilities in Kenya and Tanzania, military police officers can't let drivers pass with just a cursory salute anymore.

They must stop every car without a Fort Gordon registration sticker and find out where the driver is going. The MPs check drivers' licenses, record license tag numbers and search commercial trucks before letting them pass.

Fort Gordon soldiers, civilian employees, retirees and students are required to have a registration sticker to drive on post. But many have neglected to get one until this week, unwilling to wait in line at Darling Hall to get the free pass.

For many, though, that line was a better alternative than a traffic jam.

Throughout the week, nearly 400 people registered their vehicles each day, said Public Affairs Officer James Hudgins said. With registration stickers, they're allowed to pass through the fort's gates without stopping.

Military police are preparing for more traffic at the post next week. Close to 5,000 people are expected to attend the Miller Time Dog Days of Summer concert Friday at the fort.

Mr. Hudgins assured concertgoers that they won't miss Mark Chesnutt and Rhett Akins because of long lines at the fort's gates.

For starters, Friday is a holiday for Fort Gordon soldiers and workers, so they won't contribute to the traffic snarl, Mr. Hudgins said.

Military police officers still will be checking identification, but they will open additional lanes of traffic at Gates 1 and 2, Mr. Hudgins said. More MPs also will be at each gate to check licenses and tag numbers.

"We don't want to give the impression that we're waving people in," he said.

Gate 3 near Grovetown on Gordon Highway is normally closed, but it will be opened Friday to accommodate concert traffic, Mr. Hudgins said.

Gate 5, with entrances off Tobacco and Deans Bridge roads, also will be open, he said.

Mr. Hudgins suggested concertgoers allow an extra 10 minutes to get on post Friday night.

The concert begins at 8 p.m., but gates at Barton Field will open at 6 p.m.

Tickets, which are $10 in advance, are still available at Regions Banks, Pump 'n' Shop convenience stores, Fort Gordon Morale, Welfare and Recreation locations and the Post Exchange.

They'll be on sale for $12 at the gate on the day of the show.