Safety officials urge caution at Access Control points

A line of vehicles accumulates at Fort Lee’s Sisisky Avenue Access Control Point on a rainy Jan. 26 morning. After reported incidents of speeding and inattentiveness, post leaders are emphasizing safety as motorists enter and leave the installation.

FORT LEE, Va. – Motorists passing through any access control point here are asked to be careful, both for their safety and that of law enforcement personnel protecting the post from unlawful entry.

“On any given day, hundreds of vehicles roll through the installation ACPs,” noted Timothy D. Lawrence, garrison safety manager. “The men and women who make up the Department of the Army Security Guard force need our help as we enter and exit the gates.” 

Command officials are concerned about recent unsafe acts that put the Fort Lee ACP security team at risk, he acknowledged. They’re asking those coming on or going off post to do their parts in helping to keep the team safe and prevent damage to infrastructure. 

“Folks are excessively speeding,” said Command Sgt. Maj. James D. House, garrison CSM, who added the worst of the problem has been at Sisisky Gate with sporadic incidents at the A and Mahone Avenue ACPs. “People are in a hurry to be the first one at the (stopping point).”

He and Col. Karin L. Watson, Fort Lee garrison commander, have witnessed many drivers going too fast as they head into Fort Lee. The speed limit drops from 25 to 5 mph as vehicles approach the gate, and often motorists aren’t respecting the lower speed limit.

Capt. Ralph Mingus, chief of the DASG force here, also recommended that incoming drivers pay attention to the cars around them because they often decide to make an unexpected lane change.  For example, cars enter through Sisisky Gate’s left lane, but want to turn right on A Avenue or Shop Road and often cut across traffic to get there.

“It jeopardizes other folks who are doing the right thing driving-wise,” House said.

Excessive speed as vehicles exit the gates also is a concern for Mingus. This presents a danger to the law enforcement personnel who may not have enough time or room to get out of the way of a vehicle moving too fast.

“Typically, people leaving the base tend to go a little bit faster than when they come in,” he said.

Normally, it becomes a problem after 3:30 p.m. as people start heading home after their work day is over, he added. It also can be a problem as people exit the ACPs during lunch time.

Motorists should remember the control point is a work area.

“There is a lot of activity as guards check IDs,” Lawrence said. “Be patient. They are doing their job for everyone’s safety.”

Another issue has been drivers lining up in an entry lane that is closed, House said. If the lane is not open, it is marked with a red X on the overhead canopy, but cars sometimes enter the lane anyway. This creates a safety problem by making the guards walk across the busy line of traffic and causes a delay while they resolve the problem.

The following are a few things for motorists passing through the entry gates to consider:

  • Watch your speed. The posted speed limits entering the ACPs is 5 MPH.
  • During time of low visibility, dim or turn off headlights.
  • Proceed with caution while entering or exiting the installation.
  • Be courteous and patient.
  • Watch out for law enforcement personnel working in the area. 

“As security personnel protect the post, we should be willing to protect them from injury,” Lawrence said. “Watch your speed, focus on the task and do not be distracted.”

One recent change to ACP operations started Jan. 16. Now, the inbound traffic lanes at Sisisky Gate are shifted daily from 8 p.m.-5 a.m. All vehicles are required to enter the truck inspection point for ID card checks. The change also allows security guards to vet visitors during overnight hours. Highly visible signs are posted to direct traffic.

House also pointed out that the Lee Gate will remain closed to traffic for the foreseeable future. Multiple factors led to the decision. With much of the workforce teleworking, post leaders can’t justify opening another gate that would only have limited usage. Also, re-opening the gate would place additional demands on Fort Lee’s law enforcement personnel who have to observe COVID-19 safety protocols.

“We conducted a traffic analysis, (and) having the Lee Gate open is not justified,” Watson confirmed, while also acknowledging the command took into account the inconvenience Jackson Circle residents are experiencing because they can’t simply cross Route 36 to access post.

In the meantime, installation leaders are working with the Virginia Department of Transportation to make some improvements on the roadway surrounding the entrance, she said.

As a reminder, the current Fort Lee ACP hours are as follows:

  • Sisisky Boulevard Main Gate - always open
  • Lee Avenue – closed; Visitor Control Center open weekdays, 8 a.m. - 4 p.m.
  • Mahone Avenue – weekdays, 5 a.m. - 11 p.m.; weekends, 8 a.m. - 8 p.m.
  • A Avenue – weekdays, 5 a.m. - 8 p.m.; weekends, 8 a.m. - 6 p.m. (weekday hours apply on federal holidays if local schools remain open)
  • Shop Road – weekdays, 6 a.m. - 2 p.m.; closed weekends (when closed, commercial vehicles must use Main Gate for entry.)
  • Jackson Circle - always open to staff, residents and authorized guests
  • Temple Avenue – weekdays, 4:30-8 a.m.; closed weekends (access limited to official personnel working on or visiting Ordnance Campus.)