Dam Neck base upgrades likely will bring A.M. traffic

By Mike Hixenbaugh
The Virginian-Pilot


A construction project intended to improve security at the base that’s home to the Navy’s most elite commandos will likely lead to lengthy delays for morning commuters.

The Navy is spending $5.3 million to bring the main gate at Dam Neck Annex in Virginia Beach up to servicewide security standards. Workers will add a fifth lane and build canopies and concrete barriers similar to those at gates leading into Norfolk Naval Station. They’ll also construct a roundabout at the main intersection inside the gate to improve traffic flow.

The work is slated to begin Aug. 1.

That means, for much of the next year, there will be only two lanes into the base during the morning rush, down from three. The line of vehicles is expected to stretch more than a mile and a half during peak hours, with the wait sometimes exceeding 40 minutes, according to a Navy traffic study.

About 2,800 vehicles enter the base between 6 and 8:30 a.m. Capt. Kit Chope, the commander of Oceana Naval Air Station and its Dam Neck Annex, said the Navy is working to reduce the early-morning traffic volume.

About 5,000 sailors and civilians work at Dam Neck, home to more than a dozen commands, including Training Support Center Hampton Roads.

Chope’s staff has suggested people ride bikes or carpool onto base. They’ve asked commands to restructure workdays so personnel can come in later or earlier. Commercial truck drivers who deliver to Dam Neck will undergo inspections at Oceana instead of at Dam Neck’s gate.

“We’re going to do some things we have not normally done,” Chope said, adding that the traffic projections represent a worst-case scenario. “I’m hopeful we can mitigate the impact.”

The gate construction is the final phase of an $18.5 million project to improve security at Dam Neck, which is home to the Naval Special Warfare Development Group. The contractor, Tetra Tech Tesoro, improved the fencing around the portion of the base used by the SEALs and built an office to screen visitors before they enter the high-security section of the beachfront installation.

The Virginia Beach-based company also built a kennel for military working dogs. The original kennel was demolished to make room for the gate improvements and roundabout.

The construction might affect other drivers who use Dam Neck Road in the morning. The Navy has been working closely with city, school and public safety officials to ensure the traffic backup doesn’t cause problems, Chope said.

“The good news is there is some short-term pain for some long-term gain,” Chope said, emphasizing the importance of maximizing base security. “We would be remiss not to embark on this project.”

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