2 airport restrooms to get revamped

  • Article by: LAURIE BLAKE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: September 29, 2007 - 2:01 PM

In the wake of Sen. Larry Craig's arrest, stalls in the two men's rooms will get longer dividers to deter sexual encounters.

Two men's restrooms at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, including the one where Sen. Larry Craig was arrested, will be fitted with longer dividers to make the stalls less enticing locations for sexual encounters.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission will spend $25,000 to change the dividers. The work will be completed over the next two months, said spokesman Patrick Hogan.

Craig, a Republican from Idaho, was arrested at the airport for allegedly signaling his desire for sex to a man in the next stall by tapping his feet and waving his hand under the divider.

That restroom and another men's room -- both on the airport's main shopping and eating thoroughfare -- will be fitted with dividers that nearly reach the floor, Hogan said.

The airport has 80 bathrooms. The pair slated for renovations are among the busiest, Hogan said, and where police have made 41 arrests on suspicion of illicit sexual behavior since May.

Airport officials also discovered that men were advertising the two restrooms on the Internet and making plans to meet there as they changed planes. Complaints about sexual activity in the bathrooms have evaporated since Craig's arrest and people realized the bathrooms were under police surveillance, Hogan said.

Craig is seeking to withdraw his guilty plea to a disorderly conduct charge. He had earlier said he planned to resign from the Senate effective Sunday but last week indicated that he would wait for Hennepin District Judge Charles Porter Jr. to rule on his request. That decision is expected no earlier than the end of next week.

The airport has no plans to lengthen dividers in any of the other restrooms, Hogan said. Making the same changes in all 80 would cost about $1 million.

"If everybody would behave themselves, we wouldn't have to spend money on any of these modifications," Hogan said.

"We are trying to take pro-active measures that don't require us to tie up police officers' time and still protect the public interest," Hogan said, adding that the attention has been an embarrassment for the airport. "We understand that this happens in most large public facilities, but it is not the kind of publicity that we would have liked to have had -- it's not what we want to be known for."

Hogan said he does not know of other airports or public facilities addressing this problem in similar fashion.

The Atlanta airport uses police patrols, Hogan said. Others have installed cameras. "We have decided not to do that," he said.

Laurie Blake • 612-673-1711

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