Tampa traffic is an inevitable inconvenience, but at MacDill Air Force Base, lawmakers say it's downright dangerous and a waste of your money.
"Millions of dollars are spent on securing the base, but we have vulnerabilities just outside the gate," U.S. Rep. David Jolly said.
With 15,000 cars passing through the main gate a day, and between 6,000 and 9,000 just in the morning rush hours alone, Jolly said something needs to be done.
"There's a concern for taxpayers in regards to the amount of man hours that our men and women in the armed forces spend sitting in traffic as opposed to standing post. It also does raise some incremental security risks to have active duty personnel sitting every morning for 20 or 30 minutes just outside the gate," Jolly said.
On a typical day, the line of cars streaming into the Dale Mabry gate, one of four at MacDill, backs up fast. On a bad day, it's past Gandy Boulevard and at that point, MacDill traffic mixes with other rush hour traffic. The ripple effect not only impacts drivers, but businesses as well.
"We have neighborhoods and businesses all up and down Dale Mabry. There are businesses within a block or two of here (MacDill AFB) so if you're trying to get to one of those businesses early in the morning, you're affected by this even if you're not part of MacDill," Florida Sen. Jake Latvala said.
Traffic complaints and concerns are nothing new at MacDill. Employees are encouraged to use "intelligent transportation," whether it's getting to work early or using an app designed just for the base.
Earlier this year, MacDill announced the release of VIA-511. It's a smartphone app for people who drive onto the base. It shows the wait times at each gate, in real time, so drivers can choose which entrance to use.
"There seems to be a remarkable differentiation between the Dale Mabry gate and some of the other gates. Some of that is simply a result of where people choose to live," Jolly said.
A few weeks ago, MacDill Commander Col. Daniel Tulley called Rep. Jolly to discuss traffic problems once again. Jolly called Sen. Latvala who chairs the appropriations subcommittee on transportation, tourism, and economic development.
"We do have special funds available in the state budget to be used for retaining our military bases. It will be my job to try to make sure that we get the funds secured in order to do that," Latvala said.
Keep in mind, any transportation or retainment project at the base would be paid for using state and federal dollars.
Sen. Latvala says possible permanent solutions to alleviate traffic flow at MacDill include widening Dale Mabry, adding another lane to the main gate entrance, and making one or more of the other entrances bigger.
"The way the roads are laid out in the base relates to the air strips and to the runways, and so there are some limitations on how much expansion you can do to certain gates and how much you can reroute the traffic," said Latvala.
The Florida Department of Transportation has agreed to study the four gates at MacDill Air Force Base. In the coming months, FDOT will use Bluetooth technology to look at traffic patterns and flow and plan to have results in the next year.
Those results will determine how to appropriately and effectively reduce traffic congestion at MacDill Air Force Base.