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Since the hours Gate 3 of Patuxent River Naval Air Station is open have been limited, traffic has been snarled around Lexington Park in the morning, at lunchtime and in the evenings.

The St. Mary’s County commissioners pointed that out Tuesday at a joint meeting with the Navy officials. Capt. Ted Mills, commanding officer of Pax River, said there is little that can be done about the gate’s operating hours at this point.

Funds for the shore side of the Navy have been reduced to support the sea side, Mills said, which affects the security dollars available at Pax River. Mills decided to limit the hours at Gate 3, off Forest Park Road, as it would have the least effect on traffic, he said.

The gate is now open both ways from 5:30 to 8 a.m., then closed until it opens again from 3:30 to 5 p.m. when it is for exiting traffic only.

“Unfortunately, that’s just what we had to do,” Mills said.

At the pass office at Gate 1, which grants access to Pax River, “Right now there’s a line going out the door,” Mills said.

It’s a new federal fiscal year, so contractors are renewing their access to the base, and because the pass office is funded through security dollars, vacated jobs have not been filled, he said. “Basically we’ve had a perfect storm there,” he said.

“This is not your fault because you’re just passing along what comes down to you,” said Commissioner Todd Morgan (R), but it’s causing bottlenecks at Gate 1 and especially at Gate 2 down Great Mills Road.

“We’ve written a letter to complain,” Morgan said, but the commissioners can do little more.

“It’s a difficult situation,” Mills said. “This is a corporate Navy decision to move assets.” But altering the hours at Gate 1 or Gate 2 would have had more of impact, he said.

Commissioner Cindy Jones (R) suggested altering the morning hours at Gate 3 to 6 to 8:30 a.m. to help relieve the traffic at the other gates. With Gate 3 closed at lunch, that cuts off potential customers to the Home Grown Farm Market, funded by county government, Morgan said. It also affects the business park off Pine Hill Run Road, he said.

Pax River supplies 22,200 jobs. It is the largest employer in St. Mary’s County.