REDSTONE ARSENAL, Ala. (WHNT) – It took nearly two weeks of complaints and behind-the-scenes work to find solutions for traffic congestion at Arsenal gates. But come Monday morning, things should significantly improve — that’s the hope.
The Commanding General of the US Army Installation Management Command has authorized Redstone Arsenal to hire additional security personnel, including gate guards, which will provide immediate relief for local traffic concerns.
Gate 8 will reopen Monday, February 10 to incoming and outgoing traffic at 5:30 a.m. It will close to all traffic at 1 p.m.
“A combined effort among our local officials, the installation command and the installation management command authorized us to increase our guard force to combat the congestion at the gates, “explains Redstone Arsenal Physical Securities Officer Kevin Dykema.
“The gate guards work very hard,”says Dykema. “They are the first line of defense for entry onto the installation and when they look down that line and see it for a mile, it can be disheartening.”
This move comes after an announcement Thursday by U.S. Senator Jeff Sessions’ office that 20 new security guards would be hired. Sen. Sessions says the addition brings the total number of guards to 100.
In the authorization, IMCOM officials acknowledged the unique and exceptional circumstances of Redstone Arsenal as a federal center of excellence with a workforce composed mainly of civilians who commute to work every day.
“Though hiring additional personnel will take some time, we are implementing measures that will allow us to provide immediate relief to the rush hour congestion,” said Michael Sheehy, Director of Emergency Services, Redstone Arsenal.
“Actually as soon as Monday we’re going to increase our operations tempo and staff every lane during the day shift,” Dykema says. “That will be an immediate fix to that problem – for us to hire the additional guards will take us some time but that will be out of the public eye and something we will handle internally.”
The most recent gate changes took place Monday, January 27. They caused headaches and major delays for workers, who said no matter how early they left home, they still got stuck in traffic. The closure of Gate 8 brought more traffic to Gate 9. Wrecks on I-565 several mornings also added to the traffic headaches.
Officials with the Provost Marshal General of the US Army, IMCOM and US Army Garrison, Redstone Arsenal will conduct further studies to determine a long-range plan for the appropriate size of its security force.
“This authorization will help reduce the wait times and frustrations at the gates,” said COL Bill Marks, Garrison Commander, Redstone Arsenal. “Our guard force has really stepped up and has continued to perform one of our most vital functions at one of our most challenging times.”
Hours at other gates will remain unchanged as officials continue to analyze the flexibility the additional guards will afford.
Recently, with the closure of Gate 8, traffic has been backing up, causing major delays for weekday commuters. Every weekday, 43,000 people travel onto the Arsenal.
Many of you who drive on the Arsenal every day have asked for solutions. WHNT News 19 pressed Garrison Commander Colonel Bill Marks to see if a solution is in the works. As recently as last week, he said he didn’t expect Gate 8 to reopen anytime soon.
Even Huntsville Mayor Tommy Battle offered a helping hand to the arsenal, only to be turned down.