Southwest Gate remains open during construction

Southwest Gate remains open during construction

As you all know, it is our intent to close the Southwest Gate. Due to the construction at the intersection of South Gate Drive and State Road 193, we postponed the closure from June to July 7. Construction has been delayed again and the Southwest Gate will remain open until construction is completed, or our experts feel the work will no longer cause further complications with our gate transition. We will keep you informed.

I do want to take the chance to address some of the concerns I have heard since we announced the decision to close the Southwest Gate. I have received feedback and suggestions for alternatives. I’ll do my best to address some of those here. I’ve listed them based on the number of inquiries we’ve received on each subject. 

Q: I bike to work. Taking the South Gate will be much more dangerous and time consuming for me. Did you consider cyclists? 

A:   Hill Air Force Base is a bicycle-friendly installation. Bike lanes are common and we appreciate cyclists who want to stay fit and help our air quality by leaving their cars in the driveway. This being said, we cannot compromise the safety and security of our installation. I would encourage each and every cyclist, no matter which gate they use to access our installation, to use the proper risk management, protective equipment and make the personal transportation decisions they feel most comfortable with for their own safety. 

Q: Did you really close a gate that so many of us use simply to save the cost of two gate guards?

A: We knew this would be the perception of the decision; however, it is not accurate. There are many more resources and considerations required for the safe and secure operation of an installation gate than simply “two gate guards.” Because of this, the Southwest Gate has been operating under limited hours already. 

Q: The traffic at the other gates is already bad enough. This will make it worse. What other things can you consider?

A: It’s true this will impact traffic at the other gates. We expect that the initial adjustment period will be uncomfortable for most of us. But, as time goes on, we anticipate traffic patterns will adjust and things will flow more smoothly. Folks have suggested things to me like: (1) putting in stop signs to allow for better traffic flow at the West Gate; (2) removing bollards at the South Gate; and, (3) installing more traffic lanes at both gates. I can tell you that we have considered everything and will do what is best for the safety of those who live and work here and the security of our installation. 

(1) While every driver may not always obey traffic signs, the yield sign from Wardeigh Road out the West Gate allows for a much smoother zipper pattern than a stop sign would. 

(2) The bollards in the far left southbound lane at the South Gate do slow down traffic a bit, but this allows vehicles traveling east and west on Balmer Avenue to make it through the intersection safely. 

(3) When the construction at South Gate Drive and State Road 193 is completed, we expect this to help with congestion. We also plan to install a traffic control device that is designed to alleviate any traffic back-ups at the South Gate significantly.

Q: I ride the UTA bus. Will closing the Southwest Gate affect my bus route?

A: We are aware of the potential issue with one afternoon UTA route to the Layton Front Runner station. UTA is working on alternatives that will keep the route running on schedule, and that agency will reach out to those riders directly.

Q:  What is the intent of the merge/yield sign combination when southbound Wardleigh turns and exits the West Gate? Without a yield sign it could be assumed that drivers should zipper into the traffic exiting the gate, but with a yield sign added in to the mix it could also be assumed that drivers should yield to (not zipper into) the exiting traffic to avoid slowing them down and blocking the intersection with the traffic light. 

A:  The overall intent is to facilitate driver zippering. This is a bit of a unique circumstance — on a normal merge situation (such as on a highway on-ramp), there is usually enough room to merge in so that a yield sign for the merging cars is not required.  But you’ve probably seen very short on-ramps where a yield sign is present, so merging drivers don’t just pull into moving traffic suddenly (and there is always a merge sign before the on-ramp to alert the moving freeway traffic).

That’s the scenario we have here — we need a merge (zipper) sign to alert drivers/encourage them to allow cars to move in, and we also need a yield sign to make sure merging traffic knows to be cautious and to wait if there is no opportunity to merge without stopping. Removing either (or both signs) would likely make things even worse.  The fortunate thing is that the speed tables tend to slow drivers down to facilitate zippering. So be cautious, and be courteous!

To summarize, I realize the only response that will satisfy most folks is that I’ve decided to keep the gate open, but that is not an option. I realize this is an emotional issue and an unpopular decision. The gate has been a convenient alternative, not only for our workforce, but also for our residents. 

As leaders, we do care about your quality of life. However, we also care — and are responsible for — your safety and security, which is why our leadership team did a thorough analysis and looked at many options before arriving at this decision. 

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