Past the thin red line: Be courteous when driving on base
By Audrey Jensen, 21st Space Wing
/ Published January 29, 2018
PETERSON AIR FORCW BASE, Colo. --
For some, waking up in the morning comes with a fairly regular routine. This may include hitting the off button on the alarm clock at 5:30 a.m., taking a 10-minute shower, eating breakfast and heading out the door.
For military service members and civilians who work on the Peterson Air Force Base, Colorado, part of that morning routine includes driving through the north, east or west gates to get on base.
But what comes with the everyday habit of passing through the north gate, the busiest gate on base, may be a slower commute to work and traffic congestion, said Tim Omdal, 21st Security Forces Squadron deputy director.
“What happens is people become creatures of habit, so they always come through the north gate,” Omdal said. “With the volume of traffic we have, if some folks would just come in the east gate instead of the north gate, their wait time and alleviation of traffic would [improve].
“The west gate can take the traffic on and there will be some delays, but there really are no safety or Air Force protection concerns because it’s on base,” he said.
Right before the north gate sits two traffic lights, where many cars get backed up at peak times, but these lights are within city limits, according to Katherine Hammer, 21st Security Forces Squadron chief of reports and analysis.
“The north gate is where people complain the most because of the number of personnel reporting to duty on this side of the installation at that time — and the traffic lights,” Hammer said. “We have no control over those, those are owned by the city. Our ability to make changes ends outside of the gate.”
Thin red lines outside of each gate marks where Peterson AFB jurisdiction ends.
Though Peterson AFB can’t change the lights, the city is aware of the traffic leading up to the north gate, including the congestion of cars driving from Highway 24, Hammer added.
“When I come from Highway 24, (for example today), I was backed up all the way to the beginning of the offramp,” Hammer said. “Usually you see that after a holiday, long weekends or when people come back from spring break. … But I have the ability to not stop there and block traffic.”
Drivers can still enter through the west gate when driving to Peterson AFB from Highway 24, she said.
Driving laws in Colorado Springs and additional restrictions apply to Peterson AFB, Hammer and Omdal said, and everyone driving on base should remember to follow these rules, which will help speed up the process to get on base.
“I see people everyday looking at their phones and they miss when the light turns green, and now they’re holding up traffic and contributing to chaos at the gates,” Hammer said. “If you think about the number of people who are looking down, it delays them three to four seconds. Then multiply that by the number of cars entering the instillations. ... We could get folks in a lot quicker if people were paying attention.”
According to Omdal, there are no funded base projects or improvements in progress to redesign or add gates, but over the years one of the inbound lanes was closed and an additional lane was opened for buildings 1, 2 and 3, he said.
“In reality we have four inbound lanes from 6 until 8:30 in the morning at the north gate with augmentees to get people in as quick as we can after check in,” Omdal said.
It’s possible for excess traffic to be dispersed if everyone remembers to do their part, Omdal and Hammer said.
“Traffic is like that at any installation, that’s just the downside to having security,” Hammer said. “If you think about a Transportation Security Administration entrance at the airport, we’re doing kind of the same thing.”
Rules and reminders when driving on Peterson AFB:
• Must have a hands-free device when using a phone
• No texting or talking on a hand-held device while driving
• Must stop car when Reveille and Retreat play on base at 7 a.m. and 5 p.m.
• Pay attention to speed limits
• Have ID and CAC card ready for entry controllers at the gate
• Check times and dates online for gates on different holidays and closures
• Peak traffic times at gates are from 7:30-8:30 a.m. and 4-5:30 p.m.
• Switch up which gate you use every once in a while
• Follow all Colorado Springs traffic laws