BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - The dust is beginning to settle near Keesler’s new gate at Division Street. The new entry point boasts efficiency and will bring an off-site inspection point onto the base for the first time ever.
Now that the Forrest Avenue/Division Street roundabout is in service, work on Keesler’s new entry gate continues behind the fence.
“You can see behind me that they’re making progress, moving more from the dirt work and the horizontal piece, and fortunately we’ll be seeing vertical construction here soon.” said Col. Ryan Crowley, USAF 81st Training Wing Mission Support Group Commander.
Crowley said that the four-phased project is on time and will streamline entry onto base.
“Actually, the entry control point itself, has four lanes,” said Crowley. “All of our other current gates have two lanes. That will allow us to get folks onto base quicker in the future.”
Crowley said the construction of an on-site commercial inspection pit for the new gate project is a first for the Air Force installation.
“Right now that is currently at Oak Park,” said Crowley. “We have a lot of trucks going through that neighborhood. We’ll be able to bring those vehicles straight into this gate off of the interchange, off of I-110, it will be more modern and give our defenders a better space to perform inspections to the quality that we’d like to.”
The third piece of the project is an electronic queuing system that will allow you to get line for a base pass prior to your arrival to the *fourth* piece of the project - a new visitor control center.
“We’re really excited about that. It’s currently at White Avenue. We’re going to transition that to here and will be a modern facility. It will allow folks to get their base passes a little bit quicker than they have in the past,” said Crowley. “That element is out for active advertisement, is getting bids right now, and we hope to award that in the next couple of months. Once that project is awarded, we’re expecting the work to begin and finish around winter time 2021-22.”
The multi-million dollar funding for the project was a joint effort.
“The project is funded through unspecified minor military construction,” Crowley said. “The Air Force received those funds from our government, it was about $13 million. There’s another element that brings the overall cost on base to closer to $20 million that we’re very thankful for our partnership with the City of Biloxi for advocating for us to be able to fund that portion of the project. There’s even more work, like the roundabout, that the City of Biloxi is doing and we look forward to lining up both of our projects to be able to open at the same time.”
As of now, a definite project completion time has not yet been established.
“We’ll work with the City of Biloxi with their portion of the project and open up at a time that makes sense for both of us.” said Crowley.
Crowley said that the new gate could be open as early as this time next year.