Traffic backups a concern at MacDill AFB

- Lawmakers, military, and transportation officials met to discuss traffic congestion at MacDill Air Force Base Thursday.

Nearly 6,000 vehicles arrive through the base’s four main entrances every morning, with the highest traffic volume between 6:45 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. The wait can sometimes last more than half an hour.

“There seems to be a remarkable differentiation between the Dale Mabry gate and some of the other gates. Some of that is simply a result of where people choose to live. That then becomes a factor in a traffic study,” said Congressman David Jolly. “Obviously people are not going to move because of wait times at certain gates, but how can you begin to create redirection given where people originate?”

Congressman Jolly, Senator Jack Latvala, and FDOT Director of Transportation Operations Brian McKishnie participated in a meeting with MacDill officials and brainstormed solutions.

“The real initiative this morning is to validate the wait times that they have seen,” said Congressman Jolly of conversations with MacDill leaders.

FDOT plans to  conduct a traffic study to learn more information about gate waits in the coming months. The study is expected to last a year. According to transportation officials, sensors using Bluetooth technology will collect data at various determined locations.   The data will be analyzed to find long-term traffic solutions.

“At the end of the day, we’re hoping to get information not only about how to make improvements overall in or around the base, but also to get better information for commuters to know that there are other options,” McKishnie said.

McKishnie told FOX 13 the study would provide “detailed information about the delay time at every gate,” adding “information about where people are coming from, which vehicle is using which gate, where they are originating from and which gate they are using.”

Congressman Jolly said there could be some immediate relief within a year through “better communication of wait times  and a voluntary redirect to different gates.” He cited “everything from a personal cellphone app to signage on roads, exterior roads to the base,” as ways technology could help.

Some say, traffic impacts more than just the base.

“We have neighborhoods and businesses all up and down Dale Mabry that are affected within a block or two,” Senator Latvala said.  ”If you’re trying to get to those businesses early in the morning, you’re affected by this even if you’re not a part of MacDill.”

Lawmakers and military leaders have called base traffic congestion a security risk for military personnel. In August 2015, a town hall meeting addressed congestion and the Tampa Hillsborough Expressway Authority released findings in April 2016.

In all, roughly 15,000 vehicles pass through the gates each day. The FDOT study is the next step. Transportation workers could begin adding sensors needed for the study in the coming months.

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