Traffic concerns at Mississippi Gate
Published June 15, 2016
Subject: Traffic concerns at Mississippi Gate
Concern: Can they please do something about the massive traffic backups at the Mississippi Gate? This morning there was only one lane open, the middle lane. Traffic was backed up in every direction as far as the eye could see. It took me close to an hour to get through the gate. My report time is 0700. I reached the intersection of Mississippi & Uravan at 0630. I did not get through the gate until almost 0730. I can only imagine how the Aurora residents feel that are held up and late for work due to base traffic. There was actually a fender bender at the gate yesterday due to the backup.
Response: Thanks for your inquiry on our gate traffic during peak hours -- this is a constant concern of mine for safety, security, and facilitating cleared traffic flow. Our Defenders are doing the very best they can with the current gate configurations and we are trying our best to eliminate congestion. Traffic is flowing much better now than it has previously thanks to several innovations between our Civil Engineer Squadron and our Security Forces Squadron.
However, there is still much to do, to include replacing the obsolete north (6th Ave) gate with a modernized gate infrastructure.
In addition to your concerns, I've asked my Mission Support Group a series of additional questions that will hopefully shed some additional light on this issue, as it remains one of my top readiness concerns:
1) What are the Mississippi / South Gate improvements, to include any staggering of vehicle shipments/arrivals (SFS)?
We have worked heavily with the standard contractor deliveries to deconflict arrival times as much as possible. Unfortunately there are numerous shipments that are not able to be predicted (ex. FedEx, UPS, USPS, TMO, contracted construction vehicles, etc) and these are typically the shipments that show up at the busiest times for POV gate traffic. Support for some tenants are particularly burdensome on us because we get less than 24-hour’s notice and 10-15 dump trucks show up at once (this is normally early in the morning). For example, this occurred most recently this month with notification on 1 June for a 2 June arrival. All mission partners need to ensure we deconflict requirements that impact our gate traffic.
2) What are the 6th Ave improvements, to include all inbound lanes, additional augmentees, and future ingress/egress improvements?
We will soon remove all of the jersey barriers past the 6th Avenue gate house and utilize the current bollard emplacements and associated bollards to slow traffic and enable two lanes (both inbound and outbound) during the associated peak time for each (two lanes inbound in the morning, and two lanes outbound in the afternoon). However, installation security and safety remain our primary considerations.
3) How can we mitigate activated alarms that, due to timing, have caused several egress delays at peak hours?
460 SFS procedures for responding to any and all activate Intrusion Detection System (IDS) alarms include closing the installation to all outbound traffic. This practice is not unique to Buckley and is standard across most USAF installations. The purpose is to ensure SF patrols are able to respond to the alarm and discover the source/person responsible before they have an opportunity to depart the installation. While alarm activations can seem “routine” we truly do not know the cause of the alarm, we do not assume it was entered in error until SF patrols are able to secure the scene and detain or apprehend the offender.
4) Could we, like other bases, have a single gate during peak hours with "all lanes" inbound and the other gate with “all lanes" outbound?
Single-direction traffic flow though BAFB gates would be an ideal vehicle throughput solution but poses a few challenges: First, BAFB does not own the real estate (outside of the gates) necessary to facilitate smooth single-direction traffic egress/ingress. Second, it would take a deliberate agreement between BAFB and the city of Aurora and CDOT to change the existing traffic light systems to make this process work. Our traffic engineer has been in communication with the City of Aurora regarding traffic light adjustment inquiries in the past. Moreover, there would be significant impact to local traffic by making all lanes inbound and all lanes outbound as the current traffic lights are not set up in that configuration. Also, it would likely take additional supervision by a traffic officer to ensure there is strong safety oversight. Another inhibitive factor is that the 460 SFS does not have the jurisdictional authority to legally direct traffic outside of emergency situations off base. Finally, government liability concerns will come into question is there was an accident.
5) Can we extend hours at 6th Ave Gate?
I have asked 460 SFS to put all available resources to ensure security and move to extended gate hours. Their manning is currently limited with support to a deployment rotation, PCS and separation losses, and support to other functions around the installation. We are working with our MAJCOM and HAF functional teams to right size our SFS manning commensurate with other bases with a growing population (ours is now near 13,000). The SFS is also working to hire additional Department of the Air Force Police Officers to improve manpower immensely and perhaps, even allow us to meet both the goal of 8-hour shifts and extended 6th Ave Gate hours. Unfortunately, this process is by no means simple but my staff is working diligently to make the necessary adjustments to our job advertisement to attract viable local candidates to our ranks. Currently, SFS has been in 12-hour shifts (not including roll-call) since 2013 and they are unfortunately are slated to remain in 12 hour shifts for the foreseeable future. Please thank our Defenders for all the great work they do and their positive professionalism in ensuring our security.
6) What is the progress / discussions with CDOT on the egress pads controlling and extending the lights to get off base at peak hours?
According to our traffic engineer, two different government municipalities are involved with the traffic lights. The Mississippi Avenue light is control by the City of Aurora. The 6th Avenue light is controlled by the Colorado Department of Transportation. The following changes have been made to each traffic light: The arrival sensor timing at the Mississippi Gate has been increased from 3 seconds to 5 seconds. This was done by the City of Aurora. This change allows additional time for exiting Buckley AFB traffic to arrive at the light and egress off the installation onto Mississippi Ave. More specifically, this action sustains the Aspen St. (egress) green light for a longer period of time and allows for more traffic volume to exit the base from Aspen St onto Mississippi Ave. At the 6th Ave. Gate, the left turn signal has also been increased from 3 seconds to 5 seconds for egress off the base onto 6th Ave. The left turn arrow timing was also increased from 27 seconds to 57 seconds; which means the sensor actuates within that 57 seconds once one vehicle is detected at the stop bar regardless of the cumulative volume of vehicles. This is the maximum amount of time that the light can be activated for traffic movement without backing up traffic along 6th Avenue. On occasion, BAFB motorists will experience delays at 6th Ave Gate due to malfunctioning traffic light equipment that occurs primarily during cold or inclement weather. CDOT replaced the equipment on 12-13 January 16, and it appears to have resolved the issue but officials will monitor the situation closely and contact CDOT if there are problems.
7) What is the way forward on O&M funding for 6th Ave incremental improvement, to include design and how soon we can start that project?
For 6th Ave Gate, we are submitting an unfunded request for the phase 1, road re-alignment from gate house to Steamboat Ave and utilize operations and maintenance funding to expedite this if we cannot obtain military construction dollars.
8) What is the way forward on permanent concrete speed tables (similar to Peterson West Gate) and eliminating temporary problematic speed bumps?
The UFR has been submitted and will be discussed at the upcoming Funds Working Group/Financial Management Board on 6 Jun. Our Civil Engineering Team is in the process of writing the scope of work, to include speed tables found at other installations and will be incorporating that design into this scope of work
Thanks again for your question.