If all goes well, sailors will be able to ride the bus into the billion-dollar Special Warfare Command campus being constructed on the Silver Strand between Imperial Beach and Coronado, according to Navy officials at a January 18 Imperial Beach City Council meeting. But there won’t be much signage on State Highway 75, according to base commander Capt. Scott Mulvehill.
“We want to make sure we maintain the scenic highway,” Mulvehill said of the project that broke ground in 2015. “It’s a beautiful stretch of land there and we want to have a low visual impact.”
The campus is being constructed on land south of the existing Silver Strand Training Campus. The Navy decided at least five years ago that Special Warfare personnel, whose commands are currently scattered around the country, should be united on a single campus. About 3300 Special Warfare personnel are expected on the campus once it’s finished.
The campus is within Coronado’s city boundaries, but at the Imperial Beach border. The two cities are in litigation over which one should handle the base sewage.
The Navy’s design for the strand and the campus aims to take as much base-bound traffic out of the roadway as quickly as possible. That will be accomplished by having an 800-foot-long, four-lane-wide entry drive on the base for about 110 cars, with a 600-foot-long dedicated right-turn lane on SR-75, he said.
The southbound left-turn lane will be a 500-foot-long turn pocket, Mulvehill said. “I have ripped off my guards [amenities] to put more money into the construction of the intersection.....
“We want to keep everybody inside the blue line, the blue line we consider that’s where our property starts,” Mulvehill said. “We’re trying our best to be good neighbors and we’re doing our best to help traffic out there.”
Vehicles leaving the base northbound will have a long third lane on the side to accelerate up to traffic speed.
The base command is working with Caltrans and the Metropolitan Transit System to put the bus stop on the base — inside the blue line.
“That way we have less people walking across the strand,” Mulvehill said. “It’s just a proposal right now. We would like to get it inside the base…. We think that would be huge for everyone…. We want our people to look at the bus and say, 'That’s a super-easy way to get to work.'”
Mulvehill expects the Special Warfare campus will be home to lots of fitness enthusiasts who will enjoy having the strand at the front door.
“They are Navy SEALs — I expect there will be lots of runners, lots of bicyclists,” he said.
Imperial Beach City Council members said they were pleased with how much the base commanders have worked with the city to address concerns about traffic problems on the 75.
“We really want to work with MTS and getting sailors to utilize public transportation,” councilwoman Lorie Bragg said. “Your response to our concerns is right on the money for us.”
“It’s not easy to negotiate with Fish & Wildlife, with Caltrans, with MTS and with us,” mayor Serge Dedina said. “You built great relationships with your neighbors and we really appreciate it.”
Mulvehill emphasized that the design is meant to look ahead to how the base will work in ten years.
“We have over engineered this so ten years from now people aren’t scratching their heads going, 'That Mulvehill guy sure screwed it up,'" he said. “We want to make sure we got it right for the future.”