Faced with complaints about traffic congestion from base workers, Fort Detrick has reopened a gate on Oppossumtown Pike on a limited basis after closing it for only a week due to budget constraints at the beginning of the month.
The gate will be open from 6:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m. Monday through Friday for both inbound and outbound traffic and on the same days for outgoing traffic only from 3:30 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., Fort Detrick spokeswoman Lanessa Hill said.
The revised schedule went into effect Monday after the gate had been closed since April 1 because a U.S. Department of Defense hiring freeze had left the facility with a shortage of guards to secure all of four of its gates.
The freeze had left Fort Detrick with only about 60 percent of its guard positions filled, placing a strain on the remaining guards and requiring significant amounts of overtime, Hill said last month.
The base had been able to revise its staffing schedule and will not incur overtime from the Oppossumtown gate’s new hours, Hill said.
The change was made after hearing from workers about congestion on the base after the gate was closed, Hill said in an email.
“We received feedback from employees of Fort Detrick. We took that feedback into consideration and were able to open the gate for two hours in the a.m. and two [hours] in the p.m.,” she said.
Closing the gate had been expected to save about $10,000 a week in overtime and other costs.
Fort Detrick is Frederick County’s largest employer, with more than 4,300 workers. On any given day, about 13,000 vehicles pass through the facility’s gates.
Several businesses along Oppossumtown Pike had expressed concerns about how the gate closure would affect their sales if post workers could no longer access the gate.
Frederick officials would prefer to have as many entrance and exit points as possible to allow workers to access various parts of the city, city Economic Development Coordinator Richard Griffin said.
The change would clearly have some effect on businesses in the area, but it’s hard to tell how much effect it would have, Griffin said.
On April 4, U.S. Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-Dist. 8) of Kensington cited the gate closure after a meeting with the Frederick County Board of Commissioners as the kind of issue that could become more common if Congress doesn’t find a way to solve the nation’s budget impasse.
Detrick officials have said the hiring freeze that led to the shortage of guard positions had been planned before the budget sequestration process went into effect.