With a simple phone call, a U.S. Army Engineering and Support Center, Huntsville project manager prevented the loss of use of vital access control points for an extended period of time as well as potentially saving her customer millions of dollars.
After the Army Office of the Provost Marshal General requested that Huntsville Center Access Control Point Program look into Reilly Road and Canopy Lane road projects at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, Heather Wilburn was assigned as project manager to provide oversight for design-build construction and infrastructure upgrades for the two access control points at the largest military base by population on earth.
Wilburn learned from Fort Bragg officials that an agreement made between Fort Bragg and the North Carolina Department of Transportation more than 20 years ago required NCDOT to provide assistance with construction of entryways to the base did not adequately account for current construction standards and would not be useable if the current construction plan was followed.
Wilburn began digging through the paperwork for the project developed in the late 1990s to relieve traffic congestion around Fort Bragg. With more than 50,000 active duty personnel assigned and 150,000 family members and retirees serviced there, the installation also employs more than 10, 000 civilian employees and contractors.
The resolution to the issue was the construction of Interstate 295, known as the Fayetteville Outer Loop. The project saw Fort Bragg Directorate of Public Works and NCDOT work together to develop the 39-mile outer loop, reducing the volume of traffic on portions of the local street network and provide interstate connectivity for the region and provide Fort Bragg direct connections to I-95.
Wilburn said she knew a project as large as the Outer Loop takes a long time to complete, and although an agreement was made years ago, things had changed. However, she said she knew the parties involved were intent on meeting their obligations.
“During the planning stages in the 90s, NCDOT agreed to take on some of the costs associated with entry gates, but the agreement was very vague,” Wilburn said. “However, that agreement came prior to 9-11 and an increase in stringent base access requirements.”
Although many of the gates associated with the Outer Loop project have been upgraded over the years, Wilburn came to the project with her focus being the upgrades on the gates at Reilly Road and Canopy Lane.
“I’m working with Fort Bragg Department of Emergency Services to submit unfinanced requirements for all remaining facilities required to meet Army ACP standards,” Wilburn said. “That included vehicle barriers, guard booths, gate houses, lighting and generators, all which are standard for Army ACPs,” she said.
“Even though the agreement between the agencies stated NCDOT would provide infrastructure upgrades at the gates and was a 20 year old agreement, I felt NCDOT would come through.”
At that point, Wilburn picked up the phone, called NCDOT, and asked if they would provide support. Their reaction was ‘yes.’
“Sometimes you just have to ask,” Wilburn said. “After the negotiations were complete, NCDOT agreed to provide necessary conduit to run power and communication lines and they agreed to provide roadway lighting and relocation of utilities. That’s where the big savings are,” Wilburn said.
With NCDOT providing assistance with the infrastructure upgrades, Wilburn said the cost savings for Fort Bragg could reach as high as $2 million.
“Putting in lighting and moving existing utilities around is an expensive undertaking,” she said.
Ron Brook, Huntsville Center ACP program manager, said that Wilburn asking NCDOT to meet their portion of an agreement made decades ago is resulting in many advantages to Fort Bragg’s budget and mission.
“Army Installation Management Command asked us (Huntsville Center ACP Program) to provide project management so that the right questions were asked and to ensure we were meeting Army standards. Part of good project management is oversight and coordination of multiple agencies to save taxpayers money and ensure compliance with Army ACP standards that are vital to protect Fort Bragg personnel and residents,” Brook said.
“The Outer Loop has taken years to complete. All these individual project management pieces require oversight, coordination and management by a competent PM with access control point experience to ensure that design requirements and input from the various parties are integrated, coordinated and scheduled to meet NCDOT restrictions. Heather Wilburn did a great job,” Brook said.
Fort Bragg officials were so pleased with ACP team’s work that the Fort Bragg Department of Emergency Services, Physical Security Division awarded a Commander' Award for Civilian Service to Wilburn for her management of the design build construction and Brook and Lisa Cass, ACP project manager, for their maintenance and services support on the effort.
Col. Eugenia Guilmartin, Director of Emergency Services at Fort Bragg, stated the team “greatly enhanced Fort Braggs Force Protection and ACP Operations Program and represents the very best of Civilian service to the Army.”