Coronado residents took to social media to express their displeasure related to the Naval Base Coronado gate closures for the holiday season. Traffic back-ups led to children being late for school, teachers being late for work, military members sitting in traffic to get onto base and local businesses being short staffed as their workers were delayed.
One Coronado Happenings Facebook member said “Day 2 of the horrendous traffic because of gate closures. I spoke to the City Engineer yesterday and he said the Base never told them of these closures. The bases’ gates will be closed from 23 Nov-12 Jan, a month and a half leave period. I have never in my time in the military nor my husband’s heard of something like that. To hold an entire city hostage this long is unacceptable. Yesterday there was still massive traffic coming in from IB and trying to turn left into NAB @ 11am!!!”
Numerous screen shots of the traffic congestion as displayed on google maps were posted showing almost 30 minutes just to cross the Coronado Bridge. Folks around town were confused and concerned as to what caused the traffic back-up, wondering if it was a base-lockdown, or some other sort of emergency. Residents also shared concerns for emergency vehicles being able to get to people in need with all the traffic congestion.
Naval Base Coronado Public Affairs Officer Kevin Dixon responded to questions about why NBC is closing the gates for such a long period of time and stated “Naval Base Coronado reduced gate hours in order to allow uniformed service members time to take R&R during the holiday season. This year we were forced to extend the time period of the gate closures compared to previous years as our Security manning is reduced. In order to meet our requirements and to provide a 5-day leave period, we were forced to extend the time of the closure.”
In response to the terrible traffic on Monday, Naval Base Coronado did adjust their schedule and open up additional gates to ease congestion. “We take our impact to the city seriously and we have made modifications to our closure plan. All of our security personnel are being fully utilized and we have been provided volunteer relief from some of our tenant commands to supplement our personnel,” said Dixon. “Today those went into effect and traffic was greatly reduced. We will continue to monitor the situation and make modifications where we can. This morning we opened Gate 2 at NASNI and the Rendova Gate at NAB to reduce morning traffic congestion. And in consideration of the upcoming Coronado holiday parade on December 1, will open addition gates to ease traffic flow.”
Jim Newton, Assistant Director of Public Services and Engineering, indicated some surprise by the Navy Base gate closures and the level of congestion as a result. He further stated, “We are currently working with the Navy to confirm their gate closure schedule so we can provide that information to the Coronado Community.” When asked if they can assist by adjusting the timing of the traffic signal lights Mr. Newton said “In 2017 the City received permission to take over some of the traffic signals on SR-75 from Caltrans and we implemented an adaptive traffic signal system. This work was completed in 2018 and resulted in a reduction to congestion we had been experiencing. Due to our signals’ adaptive capabilities we shouldn’t need to make any timing adjustments but we will continue to monitor the situation and do what we can to help keep traffic moving as best as possible.”
Some residents were concerned that the traffic negatively impacted the schools due to children being tardy and teachers being late and questioned if schools would lose funding because of lost instruction time. Maria Simon, Public Information Officer for Coronado Unified School District said “The district was not informed of the gate closures and so we were not able to notify our staff, which made Monday, after the holiday week, particularly difficult and disruptive. Many staff members reported triple the drive time to work. Today was a bit better and now that families and staff are aware that this will be an ongoing issue through January 12th, everyone is adjusting their commute time. Our funding is only impacted by student absence, not tardiness. So, while it is very inconvenient, and our students miss valuable instructional time, it’s not a financial issue.”
Naval Base Coronado is working hard to alleviate some of the stress the gate closures are causing and will continue to work with the community and the city staff moving forward.