Parris Island traffic problems subside; security gate relocation about to break ground

emoody@beaufortgazette.comJune 25, 2014 

Pfc. Zachary Calleo scans an ID at the entrance gate to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on June 5, 2014. New procedures at the gate for Parris Island are taking longer than usual and backing up traffic onto Parris Island Gateway because of the new scanning system that they have implemented to check IDs.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Traffic jams outside the gates of Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island have subsided as those working gate security get more familiar with new technology and procedures, a base spokeswoman said.

And a new project breaking ground in about two weeks could help prevent similar backups, according to 1st Lt. Jean Durham.

In May, military police started using a handheld scanner called a Mobilisa to check identification and provide immediate background checks on those going through the gates, Durham said.

The scanners can read military and government-issued ID cards, driver's licenses and state-issued ID cards. The scanners check federal, base and other records.

Some days, the scanning caused traffic to back up on Parris Island Gateway -- occasionally as far as Savannah Highway in eastbound lanes and onto the Russell Bell Memorial Bridge westbound.

Savannah Highway is more than a mile from the base entrance.

Port Royal Police Chief Alan Beach said that on several occasions two of his officers had to direct traffic. And on at least one morning, that tied up the only two patrol officers on duty.

Beach could not recall any accidents occurring because of the traffic. He said problems have eased and there hasn't been a need to send officers out to direct traffic.

The problems have decreased because military police at the gates have become more familiar and efficient with the scanners, Durham said. To avoid traffic jams on busy days, such as family and graduation days, a sign is posted at the front gate telling drivers to proceed to checkpoints farther on base, she said.

"We're still going to continue to review our procedures, and we understand that that wasn't a fun time for the community," Durham said.

Backups should be less likely after the base moves the entry gate to the other side of the causeway linking Parris Island to Port Royal Island, Beach said. That will allow vehicles to back up along the causeway, rather than on Parris Island Gateway.

That plan has been discussed for years and is now coming to fruition, according to Durham. Construction bids have been awarded, and groundbreaking could occur in about two weeks.

In 2010, Brig. Gen. Frederick Padilla, then the base's commander, said the project would cost $8 million. An update cost estimate was not available Wednesday, but additional information is expected to be released soon.

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