July 03--Construction of a $9.5 million security gate near the entrance to Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island is set to begin in about a week.
The project will shift the main security checkpoint for visitors from its current spot on Port Royal Island to Horse Island on the opposite side of a causeway. Relocation will allow more efficient traffic and security checks and should help prevent traffic from backing up onto Parris Island Gateway during recruit family days and graduations, according to Capt. Rachel L. Nolan, base director of public affairs.
"The location and additional lanes will allow for faster processing of visitors on base and will decrease the chances that delays at the gate will impact traffic in Port Royal," according to Nolan. "This is a benefit, not only to base employees and visitors, but also to the local community."
More than 120,000 visitors come to Parris Island each year, according to Marine Corps Community Services South Carolina.
The gate project was proposed in 2010, but money had not been allocated until recently.
The current gate was built in 1941, about two years after completion of a bridge over Battery Creek provided a more direct connection from Port Royal Island to Parris Island.
There are no plans to demolish the current gate buildings, which will be open so vehicles can pass through. Depot officials could use them as an additional screening point in the future, if necessary.
The new gate and main security point will be near the traffic circle on Horse Island and have three inbound and one outbound lane, according to Nolan.
The traffic problems -- which surface intermittently as security procedures change -- returned in May and June when Parris Island security began using a handheld scanner called a Mobilisa. 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.
At times, traffic backed up on the gateway for more than a mile, although problems have largely subsided as security officers became more familiar with Mobilisa.
Futurenet Group Inc. of Detroit won the $9,499,000 contract for the job. Construction is expected to last until October 2015, and work is being planned so as not to impede traffic. Signs will be used to direct traffic.
Traffic fluctuates based on base activities, with family visits on Thursdays and graduations on Fridays increasing numbers. An average of more than 4,400 vehicles enter the base between 3 and 8 a.m. on those days. On other days, the average number of vehicles during those times is more than 3,100.
Follow reporter Erin Moody at twitter.com/IPBG_Erin.
Copyright 2014 - The Island Packet (Hilton Head Island, S.C.)