DAHLGREN, Va. - In the age of the COVID-19 pandemic things have changed. Many facets of daily life were bent in an attempt to stem the spread of infection. Masks are worn, people are more attentive to hand hygiene, and most individuals shy away from large gatherings. The institution of widespread teleworking made this possible, and to well received results.
Although working from home introduces its own problems such as a blurring of the boundaries between work and personal life, social isolation, and sedentariness, it has eliminated perhaps one of the most dreaded employment related maladies - the morning commute. Those who telecommute are granted a reprieve from the rush to get up, get ready, and get out.
Although the permanent return to base is still to be determined for much of Dahlgren’s personnel, most commuters should expect better traffic conditions when arriving to base in the mornings. Upon the end of telework, new procedures will make getting onto base in the mornings easier.
Monday to Friday, from 5:30 to 9 a.m., Dahlgren’s Main Gate, also known as A Gate, will have two incoming lanes and B Gate will have three incoming lanes. There is no traffic going off-base at the two gates. Instead, an additional egress gate was constructed for use only during the morning peak hours. This gate is situated at the intersection of Avenue A and 1st Street on base and exits to Dahlgren Road near the post office off-base.
The challenge to get on base is in part due to the location of Dahlgren’s gates. Both of the base’s gates, and in particular B Gate, are in close proximity to Route 301 (James Madison Parkway). This road functions as an alternate route for I-95. With several infrastructure projects affecting traffic on I-95, Route 301 is seeing increased usage.
Yearly increases in personnel have also pushed the original road infrastructure to its peak. Jeron Hayes, Public Affairs Officer for Naval Support Activity South Potomac (NSASP), said, “When I started in 1998, we had significantly less people working here at Dahlgren. Now we’re looking at about 12,000 people on and off the base every day.”
Luckily, the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is a steadfast ally in the battle against back-ups. With its traffic engineering expertise, VDOT supports a steady flow of traffic onto base through several road projects in the vicinity of Dahlgren. “We have a really good relationship and cooperative effort working with them,” said Hayes.
In 2018, VDOT instituted a new traffic pattern on Dahlgren Road from its intersection with Potomac Drive to A Gate. The project involved new pavement markings that allowed the center turn lane to function as an eastbound lane during the peak morning hours. The additional incoming lane to A Gate helped decrease congestion on roads in the vicinity of A Gate.
VDOT also led two separate projects along Route 301 that focused on increasing the capacity of turn lanes.
The first was completed in 2017 and resulted in the lengthening of the northbound right turn lane leading into B Gate. The lane runs about half a mile along northbound Route 301, from to Route 1150 (Commerce Road) to Route 614 (Bennion Road).
This project is also distinguished as the first SMART SCALE funded project completed in VDOT’s Fredericksburg District. SMART SCALE is a VDOT-led, data-driven initiative that prioritizes and allots funding to infrastructure projects in Virginia based on various criteria.
A second project along Route 301 is set to be completed by November 20, 2020. The focus is expanding the other turn lanes at the intersection of Route 301 and Route 614; the northbound left turn lane onto Owens Drive, and the southbound right and left turn lanes onto Owens Drive and Bennion Road respectively. The intended outcome of the project is to further unencumber through traffic on Route 301 by increasing capacity for turning vehicles.
There is one additional project aiming to increase the safety around B Gate. The Naval Facilities Engineering Command is installing a swing arm to stop traffic heading onto Bennion Road from Potomac Drive. Cars often drive across the lanes on Bennion Road to turn right onto Route 301. To prevent accidents from this highly dangerous maneuver, the swing arm will be down from 5:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.
This swing arm project is scheduled for completion on November 30, 2020. NSASP will provide a 30-day notice prior to activation of the swing arm.
These projects are indicative of the exceptional spirit of collaboration between VDOT and NSASP. When life finally reaches some semblance of normalcy, hopefully your trip to and from base is a bit easier and much safer.