Tougher security at Parris Island likely to lead to weekly traffic tie-ups

A new ID policy at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island is expected to cause traffic jams in Port Royal today and Friday as hundreds of proud parents eager to see their new Marines flock to the base, officials say.

Beginning Monday, motorists were asked to show their driver's licenses, proof of insurance and vehicle registration to military police officers at the main gate.

Unlike the old policy which required only visitors to show ID, the new measure also applies to Marines and civilian employees with Defense Department windshield stickers, said Lt. Sharon Hyland, depot spokeswoman.

"Everyone wishing to gain access to the base will have to show a valid ID, regardless of DoD vehicle decal," Hyland said. "This serves as an added security measure for all those that live, work and train aboard the depot."

Hyland said the new security measure satisfies a Pentagon order in December requiring military bases nationwide to perform ID checks.

"Our security measures are constantly evaluated and changed to accommodate the needs of the base," Hyland said. "This is one such measure."

With hundreds of visitors expected to the depot today and Friday, Port Royal police and base officials are bracing for traffic jams similar to one earlier this month, in which a mile of cars waiting to pass through the depot's main gate snaked down Parris Island Gateway and past Shell Point Elementary School on Savannah Highway about 1 1/4 mile away.

Family and friends of graduating recruits are allowed on base today before a graduation ceremony Friday. More than 190 recruits are expected to graduate Friday, and each is accompanied by two to 20 relatives, according to the depot.

Hyland said the base has consulted Beaufort County and Port Royal police to lessen the effects of the new policy on nearby traffic, especially during graduation weeks.

"We are certainly concerned with any potential impact our security policy has on the outside community and for those service members and employees that live off base," Hyland said. "This is why we have been working with Beaufort County officials and local law enforcement agencies for several months in planning this change and have coordinated traffic control measures designed to minimize delays and congestion."

Capt. Alan Beach, Port Royal police spokesman, said officers are ready for slow-moving traffic near the base today and Friday.

"We've had little to no backup so far, so it looks like the base is handling it a little better," Beach said. "We're expecting it to get a little backed up later in the week, but we'll be able to handle it."

To deal with previous traffic jams near, Port Royal police officers stood in the intersection of Parris Island Gateway and Midtown Drive to direct traffic.