Katie Peterson | Staff Writer
Fort Leavenworth Garrison staff recently completed a two-week study to determine the rate at which inbound traffic flows through Grant Gate in the morning to prove the efficiency of the system.
“Fort Leavenworth was designed and resourced to flow traffic out of one major entry point and that is Grant Gate,” said Col. Harry Hung, Garrison commander. “The other gates are designed for emergency egress and should be used for extenuating circumstances.”
Using video cameras and observations of staff in various spots along Metropolitan Avenue from Fourth Street through 10th Avenue, it was determined that the only small delay of entry happens between 7:15-7:45 a.m. Monday through Friday.
“The reason for that queue is between those hours there is a crossing guard to direct … left turn traffic from outbound Grant Avenue to Patton (Junior High School),” Hung said. “The traffic between Patton and the gate will typically create a slight delay from the school to the gate for a period of 30 seconds … between 7:15 and 7:45 a.m.
“Outside of this very specific timeframe, there are no consistent delays,” he said.
Mike Whitecotton, deputy to the Garrison commander, said this is all based on observable data.
“There is a lot of emotional argument, but everything that we’re doing is based on empirical observable data. That’s what’s driving the decisions,” Whitecotton said. “We literally take a stopwatch and time everything.”
Since COVID-19 forced post leaders to consolidate resources, only Grant Gate has been open to inbound traffic. Hancock Gate has been completely closed, and recently Sherman Gate opened for outbound traffic from 3:30-5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.
“We have made adjustments. Those adjustments included expanding the lanes from two to three and upwards of five,” Hung said. “What we’ve discovered is that (Grant Gate) has sufficient capacity to handle the traffic here on Fort Leavenworth.”
Other adjustments included working with the city of Leavenworth to extend the left turn light off Metropolitan Avenue onto Grant Avenue from 30 seconds to one minute, which began in early 2021.
Now, even as COVID-19 restrictions lift, Grant Gate will remain the main entry point for commuters onto post, Hung said.
There are three major constituents on post — commuters, the workforce of security guards and police, and residents and their children — that Hung said he’s trying to balance with gate hours.
“By keeping all three gates open (before COVID-19), we were able to satisfy the commuters, but it came at the cost of our residents, our children and our workforce. We were never resourced to open all three gates,” Hung said. “The large volume of traffic going (through Sherman and Hancock gates) flowed into residential neighborhoods, and we had an overwhelming number of complaints regarding speeding as well as traffic violations.
“For our workforce, they were stretched thin, and we lost a lot of personnel. It was a constant rotation of folks coming on and off,” he said. “There were also some off-post related problems on the Sherman side because of our limited number of lanes of traffic that flowed onto (Centennial Bridge). … We didn’t have the people nor is there enough length on the pavement to handle that kind of volume coming in from Missouri … and Fourth Street.”
As post reopens to 100 percent capacity, Hung said they will continue to monitor the situation of traffic flow and will adjust as needed.
Starting June 1, Hancock will be open for inbound traffic to accommodate moving trucks coming in for students and permanent party preparing for permanent-change-of-station moves.
“Why Hancock? Why not open Sherman Gate to commercial traffic? Where are the moving trucks going — into those neighborhoods associated with Hancock,” Whitecotton said. “They’re coming in for (Command and General Staff College) students, and that’s where most of them live.”
Because of that, Hancock Gate will be open for a limited time.
“I still need everybody to come in through Grant. I want everybody to come in through Grant because it is for the health of this installation,” Hung said. “If everything moves in through Grant, they avoid the residential areas, they get to their place and they come in and exit back out the same place.
“If they need anything, they pass the Commissary, the PX, and child care on the way out. It all fits in,” he said. “This is about culture and habits and traditions that we have almost always had here at Fort Leavenworth.”
Hung said he has reviewed the key findings with general officers and senior civilians at Fort Leavenworth, and all have agreed that keeping Grant Gate as the main entry point to Fort Leavenworth is the right thing.
“They are absolutely convinced we are doing the right thing for the health of this installation and for our children,” Hung said. “They are also committed to informing our community.”