FORT JACKSON, S.C. -- Getting to work in the morning can be a time-consuming ordeal for Fort Jackson commuters. Rush hour traffic backups outside the installation's gates have prompted post officials to analyze what causes the problems.

In addition to observing morning traffic and calculating wait times for incoming vehicles, the Plans, Analysis and Integration Office conducted a traffic survey in October to hear from affected motorists. Almost 500 people participated in the two-week online survey.

"The biggest thing that surprised me was the number of responses we got back," said Jim Olsen, PAIO plans specialist. "You can tell that it's an issue that people really are concerned about and really care about."

More motorists, 37.1 percent, stated that they typically use Gate 2 in the morning than any other gate. Gate 1 is used by 28.8 percent of motorists and 26.5 percent use Gate 4. However, 40.8 percent of drivers said they use a different gate than usual during family and graduation days to avoid traffic congestion.

Officials have identified Gates 1 and 4 as the main problem traffic areas, said Lt. Col. Greg Vibber, PAIO.

"If traffic backs up and you can't let people through, you'll never recover," Vibber said. "The situation compounds itself until the volume decreases."

Vibber said post officials are especially concerned about Fort Jackson traffic affecting drivers on Interstate 77.

"If (traffic is) backed up onto the interstate, that's an unsafe condition for motorists," he said.

During the first two weeks of October, both lanes at Gate 4 were opened for incoming traffic during rush hours on Family and Graduation Days.

"The results on that were very positive. There was virtually no wait at all," Vibber said.

The start of Family and Graduation Day events has been moved from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. with the end of Daylight Saving Time - which eases the burden on commuter traffic - but officials are contemplating opening both lanes at Gate 4 for early-morning inbound traffic next spring, Vibber explained.

One of the problems that causes backups at Gate 2 is the traffic light at the corner of Strom Thurmond Boulevard and Magruder Avenue, Vibber said. To alleviate this problem, traffic control points have been established during the morning commute hours.

Col. Ronald Taylor, provost marshal and director of emergency services, said that military police will continue to direct traffic at the intersection in the mornings.
In addition, officials are evaluating whether an increase in security guards would speed up processing at the gate.

"The access control points are manned by contract security guards based on the daily traffic count of each ACP," Taylor said. "We are conducting a 14-day traffic survey to justify an increase in our contract security guard authorization."

Taylor said that slow processing at the gates is also caused by drivers who do not have the required documentation ready when they get to the gate. He cited examples of motorists who hold up traffic because they have to look for their identification card or vehicle registration.

"All of these issues create delays in processing personnel onto the installation, and all of these happen every day," he said.

Delays at Gates 2 and 4 are also caused by visiting drivers asking security personnel for directions, Vibber said. Since Fort Jackson is host to many visitors who attend graduation ceremonies, officials are looking into making navigating the post easier.

"One thing that we thought would help out is to increase the ... functional use of the signs that we have," Olsen said. "It's a concept called 'wayfinding' to help people navigate through the post a little bit better."

Installing new and different signs across the installation would allow gate guards to give directions more quickly and help visitors find their way around post, Olsen said.

The installation is considering several options for new directional signs, which range from new signs to steer people toward graduation events to replacing all the directional signs on post.

Vibber said that the installation is actively pursuing solutions to the traffic problems on post, but added that any solutions must be geared toward long-term development.

"We need to look at five to 10 years out," he said. "Any changes are based on prospective future growth and infrastructure changes."