One of the most heavily traveled entrances to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base will be closed for three weeks starting next week, according to base officials.
Gate 12A, the closest entrance to Air Force Materiel Command headquarters and a 24-hour gateway, will be shut down temporarily to construct security upgrades beginning at 6 p.m. Friday, April 3.
The project will cost $920,000 at the landmark gate flanked by both F-15 Eagle and F-16 Fighting Falcon jets angled skyward on silver columns off State Route 444.
More guards will be added at Gate 1A, a 24-hour access site along Springer Road in Fairborn, and Gate 15A near State Route 844 to accommodate the anticipated rise in motorists driving through those entrances, said Daryl Mayer, a base spokesman. Gate 15A will temporarily become a 24-hour access gate during construction.
“We’re encouraging people to use (Gate) 1A whenever possible since it typically doesn’t have any back up,” Mayer said. Officials declined to talk about specific security upgrades.
Every workday, thousands of commuters stream on and off the sprawling base between Areas A and B, including Gate 12A. Wright-Patterson employs more than 26,000 military and civilian employees, the vast majority of whom live off the base, and use seven primary gates. The base is Ohio’s largest single-site employer.
“Clearly it is one of the busier gates,” Mayer said. Gate 19B off National Road is noted as the main entrance to the base and is the other gate that does not close.
Base employees have been bracing for longer times to get to the office.
“Its definitely going to increase time getting to work and going home, but there are worse problems in life,” said David Chiles, a program manager at AFMC headquarters and who lives in Fairborn. “But there are people freaking out about it.
“Too often people take for granted how far the base goes to make things convenient so when things get inconvenient people complain too much,” he added while at lunch at the Hangar 18 restaurant in Fairborn.
The temporary closure of Gate 12A was expected to funnel more vehicles out Gate 1A and toward downtown Fairborn, a prospect some merchants coveted.
“I believe it will give everybody here additional business for the three weeks that it’s closed,” said Bob Madden, manager at Giovanni’s Pizzeria and Ristorante Italiano on Main Street.
“Quite frankly, I hope it holds to tradition and construction lasts longer than what they predict,” said Paul W. Newman, executive director of the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce. “… When I heard it, I thought this could be nothing but a good thing for us in downtown Fairborn.”
Downtown struggled when two rounds of furloughs hit thousands of civil service employees at Wright-Patterson in 2013 because of sequestration-induced budget cuts and a partial federal government shutdown, but the business district has since rebounded, he said.
“I could visually see going out there at lunch time during those furlough periods that there were few cars parked on the street and now it’s a struggle to find a parking spot on Main Street in downtown Fairborn,” he said.