Booker Engages Air Force to Help Approve Joint Base Overpass
Dangerous road conditions have made County Route 539 the fifth-deadliest roadway in New JerseyOctober 31, 2019
WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), along with U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and U.S. Representatives Andy Kim (D-NJ), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), and Chris Smith (R-NJ), requested the U.S. Air Force (USAF) begin the process of approving the construction of an overpass over County Road 539, which splits Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JBMDL) and puts at risk the safety and welfare of civilians and military personnel in New Jersey. In a letter, the lawmakers asked the USAF for assistance approving the construction request, which if funded would put an end to preventable accidents caused by the dangerous combination of civilian and military vehicles that utilize the road daily. The letter requests that the USAF generate and submit the required DD Form 1391 to begin the approval process for this critical infrastructure project.
Home to 44,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, Coast Guardsmen, and civilians, Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst spans 42,000 acres and serves as the nation’s only tri-service branch. Each day, slow moving military convoy cross County Road 539, disrupting fast-moving civilian traffic, and placing both military members and civilian drivers at risk. These treacherous conditions have made County Route 539 the fifth-deadliest roadway in New Jersey four years in a row. A proposed overpass for civilian traffic would separate military and civilian vehicles, making military operations more efficient and dramatically improving safety for all on County Route 539.
“For almost a decade, community and military leaders at JBMDL have advocated for the creation of an overpass on Route 539,” the lawmakers wrote. “This year, there have already been several traffic fatalities and injuries due to head-on-collisions, accidents with local wildlife, or cars losing control and crashing due to high speed. […] JBMDL is in urgent need of an Inter-Base Connector to improve safety for military personnel and civilians traveling the County Route 539 corridor.”
Of the $15 million needed to fund the overpass, New Jersey state and county officials have already pledged approximately $8 million. JBMDL leadership and community stakeholders have also proposed additional traffic controls and road improvements to make County Route 539 safer for military personnel and civilians.
The full letter is available here and below.
Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst (JB MDL) has reached an important milestone as it celebrates a decade of being the nation’s only Tri-Serve Joint Base since it was consolidated on October 1, 2009. For the past ten years, JB MDL has established itself as America’s premier joint and total force warfighting base. It is home to more than 80 mission partners and employs and houses over 44,000 airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, Coast Guardsmen, civilians, and their families. As you are aware, the 87th Air Base Wing is the host wing at JB MDL, providing installation management for the base’s 42,000 acres. For almost a decade, community and military leaders at JBMDL have advocated for the creation of an overpass on Route 539, which would divert public traffic over the road in order to allow large convoys of military vehicles to travel safely across the installation. We are writing to respectfully request your assistance with this critical infrastructure project that requires a DD Form 1391.
JBMDL is in urgent need of an Inter-Base Connector to improve safety for military personnel and civilians traveling the County Route (CR) 539 corridor. Currently, military convoys enter and cross CR 539 at uncontrolled locations that leads to large, slow moving vehicles using the same road with civilian traffic traveling at higher speeds. For the past four years, the New Jersey State Police has listed CR 539 as the fifth deadliest roadway in New Jersey. Tragically, the CR 539 corridor has been the scene of traffic fatalities taking the lives of civilians and even military personnel. In 2015, two soldiers were killed when their military convoy traveling on the New Jersey Turnpike to JB MDL via CR 539 hit a tree after a civilian vehicle driving recklessly ran it off the road. This year, there have already been several traffic fatalities and injuries due to head-on-collisions, accidents with local wildlife, or cars losing control and crashing due to high speed.
JB MDL leadership and community stakeholders, have developed a proposal through the 87th Civil Engineering Group to include traffic controls, road improvements, and the construction of an overpass to improve safety and increase training space on JB MDL by 1,850 acres. We strongly support the proposal for the construction of an overpass on CR 539 which would separate civilian and military traffic and thereby increase safety on the roadway. Civilian traffic would utilize the newly constructed overpass, and military convoys would travel under the roadway. As both local roadways experience increasing civilian traffic and fatal car accidents, the addition of an overpass would greatly improve the safety of civilian motorists, as well as military personnel and equipment. The addition of an overpass over Route 539 would allow military vehicles to travel from the Fort Dix and McGuire sections of the installation to the Lakehurst side without crossing through public roadways.
As installation manager of JB MDL, the 87th Air Base Wing has been instrumental in leading military construction projects that has benefitted the entire installation. The Air Force included in its Fiscal Year 2015 budget request funding to construct a Fire House recognizing that there was no adequate structural fire protection for facilities in the range complex and outlying training areas. The lack of adequate firefighting capabilities increased the potential for loss of life, the loss of facilities, and harm to mission capabilities. This military construction project was funded at $5.9 million in the FY 2015, Consolidated and Further Continuing Appropriations Act that became Public Law 113-235.
Additionally, the leadership of the 87th Air Base Wing provided initial scoping and planning assistance with the JBMDL CR 539 Interconnector Study Conceptual Design that was published in 2017. This conceptual design, if realized, would allow military personnel to safely crossing CR 539, reduce the risk of accidents between tactical and civilian vehicles, increase access to training space on base, and create a more realistic environment for units to train. The estimated cost of this project is $15 million, however, the full financial burden would not fall to Department of Defense. Approximately $8 million has already been pledged by county and state government funds. As members of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation, we are steadfast in our commitment to ensure that additional federal resources are secured for this important military construction project.
Understanding the importance of this overpass project to both the safety of military and civilian personnel that utilize Route 539, we respectfully request your assistance in the preparation of the DD Form 1391. We remain committed to ensuring that Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst continues to serve as a pillar of excellence for our national defense. We look forward to working with you in support of this important project, and stand ready to be of assistance. Thank you in advance for your time and attention to this forward looking project that will make both military personnel and civilians safer.
Cory A. Booker Robert Menendez
United States Senator United States Senator
Andy Kim Donald Norcross
Member of Congress Member of Congress
Christopher H. Smith
Member of Congress
CC: Lieutenant General Charles D. Luckey, Commanding General, U.S. Army Reserve
Colonel Bridget V. Gigliotti, Commander, 87th Air Base Wing, JB MDL
Colonel Charles W. Durr, Commander, U.S. Army Support Activity Fort Dix, JB MDL
Captain Bill Sherrod, Commander, U.S. Naval Support Activity Lakehurst, JB MDL