Wright-Patterson closes portion of Ohio 444 for security reasons

Wright-Patterson Air Force Base on Tuesday permanently closed a mile-and-a-half stretch of Ohio 444 that bisects the base, citing security purposes as the main reason for the project.

Concrete barriers and fencing were installed Tuesday morning at the south end at Dayton-Yellow Springs Road behind the Valero gas station and at the north end next to the commissary.

An interim Gate 1A will be constructed by mid-November adjacent to the commissary and will be open 24/7. The total project costs about $700,000 and will be paid for by the Air Force. The project has been discussed for more than 10 years.

The Ohio 444 reroute project is designed to enhance security by consolidating entrances to the Air Force base, combining Area A and Kittyhawk. It also will save money, base officials said.

While no recent traffic counts are available for that stretch of Ohio 444 — the latest figure from 2008 was 14,690 vehicles per day — the base said that 85 percent of the traffic is base-related. WPAFB employs about 27,000 people and is the largest single site employer in the state.

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“We definitely expect things to be confusing at first with people learning the new traffic patterns,” said project manager Fred Tito, a design manager for the base’s civil engineering department. “It will take some time. Once the new gate opens, people will see a lot more benefit because it will be three lanes wide and handle a lot more traffic.”

Tito said after 9/11, the portion of Ohio 444 that bisected the base — which is on federal land — was “identified as a high security concern for the base.”

“It’s been a long time coming,” Tito said. “Along with security, it will also relieve traffic congestion getting across from Area A to Kittyhawk.”

The Ohio 444 reroute has been a controversial topic in Fairborn since the stretch of road that closed served the city’s business district.

The new Ohio 444 in the city of Fairborn begins at the Dayton-Yellow Springs and Kauffman Avenue intersection, continues along Kauffman to Central Avenue and west onto Dayton Drive.

The Ohio Department of Transportation is expected to do traffic counts at three intersections — Dayton-Yellow Springs/Kauffman, Central/Dayton and Dayton/Broad — in the next two to four weeks, City Engineer Jim Sawyer said. Another set of traffic counts will be taken six months from now.

ODOT is expected to install new Ohio 444 signs today as well as start restriping work on the reroute. Total cost for ODOT will be approximately $8,500.

The city and ODOT will work together to secure any additional funding if more improvements are necessary.

“We just ask motorists to use common sense, use caution, and watch for the new signs and new striping,” Sawyer said. “We’re staying on top of this and we’re watching on a daily basis. It’s one of our top priorities.”

Jill Galford, who resides near Maple Avenue, has lived in Fairborn since 2002. She usually takes Kauffman Avenue instead of Ohio 444 to get to Trotwood, where she works at Friendship Village.

“I don’t think it’s very good (to reroute Ohio 444),” Galford said. “(Ohio 444) is a busy road, and it’s already hectic on the small streets.”

Sawyer said 11,000 cars travel Kauffman Avenue daily, and he expects that number to “noticeably” increase with the reroute.

Tito said Kauffman is equipped enough to handle the additional traffic and that the corridor will reap the benefits of the reroute.

“It may bring more business into Fairborn, especially down Kauffman,” said Ron Stamper, who lives in Miami Twp. between Fairborn and Yellow Springs. “This might make things better for that area down through there.”

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