Every workday, thousands of commuters stream on and off the sprawling base between Areas A and B, including Gate 12A. Wright-Patterson employs more than 26,000 military and civilian employees, the vast majority of whom live off the base, and use seven primary gates. The base is Ohio’s largest single-site employer.
“Clearly it is one of the busier gates,” Mayer said. Gate 19B off National Road is noted as the main entrance to the base and is the other gate that does not close.
Base employees have been bracing for longer times to get to the office.
“Its definitely going to increase time getting to work and going home, but there are worse problems in life,” said David Chiles, a program manager at AFMC headquarters and who lives in Fairborn. “But there are people freaking out about it.
“Too often people take for granted how far the base goes to make things convenient so when things get inconvenient people complain too much,” he added while at lunch at the Hangar 18 restaurant in Fairborn.
The temporary closure of Gate 12A was expected to funnel more vehicles out Gate 1A and toward downtown Fairborn, a prospect some merchants coveted.
“I believe it will give everybody here additional business for the three weeks that it’s closed,” said Bob Madden, manager at Giovanni’s Pizzeria and Ristorante Italiano on Main Street.
“Quite frankly, I hope it holds to tradition and construction lasts longer than what they predict,” said Paul W. Newman, executive director of the Fairborn Area Chamber of Commerce. “… When I heard it, I thought this could be nothing but a good thing for us in downtown Fairborn.”
Downtown struggled when two rounds of furloughs hit thousands of civil service employees at Wright-Patterson in 2013 because of sequestration-induced budget cuts and a partial federal government shutdown, but the business district has since rebounded, he said.
“I could visually see going out there at lunch time during those furlough periods that there were few cars parked on the street and now it’s a struggle to find a parking spot on Main Street in downtown Fairborn,” he said.