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Wing leadership addresses traffic concerns

VANDENBERG AIR FORCE BASE, Calif. -- Construction continues at the Lompoc Gate through June 8 as the gate undergoes necessary security upgrades.

Only inbound government vehicles and commercial vehicles requiring inspection will be allowed entry during the construction period; all other vehicles must use alternate gates.

Additionally, the California Department of Transportation is working on a median barrier project along Highway 1 from Constellation Road to Timber Lane from Jan. 25 through June. Caltrans will close the left lane in both north- and southbound directions.

The construction and gate closure has caused traffic congestion along Highway 1 near the Santa Maria Gate. In some cases, drivers have violated traffic laws to avoid the congestion, putting themselves and other drivers at risk. These violations include blocking intersections and driving on the shoulder of the road in order to bypass traffic. Security forces have been and will continue ticketing violators. Offenders will also have to pay a fine of $100, receive four points on their license, incur traffic school costs and suffer insurance rate increases.

As this construction work continues, weather such as that seen this week is also going to be an important factor for commuters to consider.

"We caution everyone to be safe, pay attention out there and plan accordingly," said Col. Richard Wright, the 30th Mission Support Group commander.

In order to alleviate the anticipated delays during the peak morning traffic period, Vandenberg personnel should evaluate their schedules and work with their leadership to shift work hours as necessary. The current peak traffic time is 6:30 - 7:30 a.m., so work centers are encouraged to schedule their personnel either one hour earlier or one hour later.

Some offices have already started doing this, but more need to participate in order to mitigate the congestion at the gates, Colonel Wright said. Even if all Vandenberg units take advantage of split shifts, they also need to think about staggered departure times.

"People need to realize if they come in early, they all can't leave at the same time, too," Colonel Wright said. "We can only put so much traffic through the gate."

Base personnel are encouraged to use gates other than the Santa Maria Gate to enter the base. Commuters from Santa Maria can turn right off Highway 1 onto Firefighter Road to reach the Utah Gate, while Lompoc residents can enter Vandenberg through the Solvang Gate. Vandenberg Village residents can still use Highway 1 to reach the Santa Maria Gate, but should take into consideration the highway construction beginning Monday.

Wing leadership recognizes the challenges commuters will face the next six months, said Col. Steven Winters, the 30th Space Wing vice commander. He asked for patience from base employees and civilians who use the portion of Highway 1 that passes by Vandenberg's main gate. The base will continue to monitor the traffic situation and make necessary adjustments to alleviate congestion.

"While your wait at the gate can be frustrating, just remember the work we're doing will help ensure the safety and security of the thousands of people who live and work at Vandenberg," Colonel Winters said.