New welcome center at Fort Meade

Officials mark completion of $2.5 million project

October 26, 2004|By Sarah Schaffer | Sarah Schaffer,SUN STAFF

Army leaders and local officials marked completion yesterday of a $2.5 million welcome center and checkpoint gate at Fort Meade that they say should make it easier to get on and off the Odenton post while enhancing security.

Three years after Fort Meade became a restricted-access post, Army officials held a ribbon-cutting for an upgraded Reece Road entrance, which will open by the end of next month

In the meantime, visitors can get a pass and enter at one of the post's three other gates.

The Army closed the Llewellyn Gate on Route 175 yesterday.

More than 60,000 people live or work on the post in western Anne Arundel County.

"This is a symbol of renewing our commitment to our community in Central Maryland," Col. John W. Ives, Fort Meade's installation commander, told a small gathering.

FOR THE RECORD - Because of incorrect information provided by Army officials, an article in yesterday's editions gave the wrong date for the opening to visitors of the new Reece Road gate at Fort Meade in Odenton. In fact, the gate opened to traffic yesterday.

The 5,000-acre post includes the National Security Agency, which has its own entry points. The post is also home to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's regional office and the Defense Information School, where journalists and public affairs officers train.

Ives said the project took 10 months to complete and will help to resolve some of the security issues that have arisen since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

For years, the Odenton Army post was open to the public. In August 2001, the Army began requiring anyone who entered to present military identification or ride with an escort. Visitors were directed to the gates at Reece Road and Route 175, where a security trailer was set up to process requests for those seeking short- and long-term access.

Security was tightened after Sept. 11, 2001. Searches of vehicles at checkpoints backed up Route 175 for hours. Visitors then had to navigate a maze of concrete barriers to get onto the post.

The increased security meant hassles for many of the approximately 6,000 families who live at Fort Meade and the more than 50,000 people who work there, officials said.

Thousands of Anne Arundel County students who attend the post's six schools do not need military identification.

Residents and government employees who needed vehicle registrations and authorized visitors who wanted to obtain long-term entrance passes had to wait in line - sometimes for hours - at a temporary trailer that many remembered yesterday as small and cramped.

"It was ... one of the worst things about getting on post," said Fort Meade spokeswoman Melanie Moore.

The location's new visitor control center - with rows of seats and a number-based customer service system similar to many motor vehicle administrations - will provide faster, smoother service, she said.

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