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News > Commentary - Straight Talk: Highway signs for Hanscom
Straight Talk: Highway signs for Hanscom

Posted 7/28/2011   Updated 7/28/2011 Email story   Print story


Commentary by Col. Stacy L. Yike
66th Air Base Group commander

7/28/2011 - HANSCOM AIR FORCE BASE, Mass. -- I wanted to again thank the people that participated in the Air Force Caring for People (CfP) forum. Hanscom's CfP leads went to Washington, D.C., and met with Gen. Norton Schwartz himself to formulate the Air Force focus items. Many of these issues - child care, Exceptional Family Member Program, fitness, healthy living - were discussed right here at Hanscom a few months ago. It just goes to show that your ideas can make a difference. Look for an article about the forum next week. Read the Q&A below to see another comment transformed into action.

Question: As a commuter on Route 128/95, I drive past a very large sign between Route 3 and Exit 31B. It informs travelers that the exit for Hanscom Air Force Base is 31B. This exit brings visitors to the Hartwell Gate, where they are informed that they need to make the loop over to the Vandenberg Gate because that's where the visitor center is located.

There is an equally large sign informing eastbound travelers that they should also go to Exit 31B. This must be very frustrating for visitors, and particularly so for commercial vehicles that drive to the Hartwell Gate only to be told to turn around and go to Vandenberg. I often see semi-trailers disrupting traffic at Hartwell while they turn around.

It's never a good idea to deliberately mislead the public. It seems that the highway department is ignorant of our base protocols or the base is remiss in informing the highway department about the appropriate entrance for visitors. These signs have been in place for years. I'm constantly expecting to see a change. Perhaps the visitor center will move to the Hartwell Gate? Or, is there actually a logical reason to have visitors stop at the Hartwell Gate so they can be redirected over to Vandenberg?

Answer: Thanks for sending in your Straight Talk comment. You are correct that these signs have been in place for years, but you are mistaken in assuming that the base or the Massachusetts Department of Transportation is on an active campaign of deception. The signage on Route 128 (I-95) dates back to the pre-9/11 days, and the primary purpose of directing motorists to the Hartwell Gate was to ensure they arrived at a gate that was always open. No one likes showing up to a closed gate.

Another concern was routing traffic away from Route 2A which is confined to two lanes. However, these issues are secondary today to our more security-focused posture of ensuring visitors and commercial vehicles are processed through the Vandenberg Gate.

Thanks to the fantastic community relations between our Civil Engineering team and the local community, the informational signage on Route 128 (I-95) will be modified to reflect the appropriate exit for visitors to gain access to Hanscom Air Force Base. If you look closely, you might even find a few "Hanscom Field" signs replaced with Hanscom AFB. All that constant expectation will finally yield a change. I can't wait to learn what you are expecting next!

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