An $18 million project approved this week will dramatically change the security checkpoints at Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, officials say.
The goal is to speed the lines of airline passengers through security and reduce average wait times.
The project, approved by the Metropolitan Airports Commission (MAC) on Monday, involves consolidating four existing security checkpoints in Terminal 1, also known as the Lindbergh terminal, into one big security checkpoint with 10 lanes, said Patrick Hogan, MAC spokesman.
The new mega-checkpoint will provide more space for conveyor belts carrying passengers’ carry-on bags past scanners. There also will be added room for passengers exiting the checkpoints to put back on their shoes, belts and jackets.
“Terminal 1 Lindbergh was designed decades ago, and it has six very narrow security checkpoints,” Hogan said. “That worked fine back in the days when there were just magnetometers and X-ray machines, but now they have full-body scanners and lots of other security equipment. Those narrow checkpoints just don’t work very well.”
Construction will begin in April and be completed in March 2016. Passengers now wait 15 minutes or more, depending on the day, time and season.
“Our goal is to have security wait times of 12 minutes or less” after the renovations are completed, Hogan said.
To make way for the new mega-checkpoint, the Hot Dish restaurant, located outside of the security perimeter near Door 1, will close at the end of December, and the exterior wall of the ticketing lobby will be bumped out into the sidewalk by about 8 feet for additional space.
The new mega-checkpoint is modeled on a similar six-lane one that opened at Terminal 2, also called the Humphrey terminal, in 2012. Airport officials said that checkpoint is able to handle 150 more people per hour than the earlier configuration at that much-smaller terminal. Terminal 2 also has a second security checkpoint with four lanes.
“We learned from that experience and want to apply that at Terminal 1,” Hogan said.
Responding to complaints about missed flights due to long security lines, airport officials last spring advised travelers on domestic flights to arrive 2½ hours before a scheduled flight.
Among reasons cited for the delays were budget cutbacks resulting in fewer federal agents to check passengers, and also the airport’s design, which funnels passengers through multiple security points rather than one big one, which would allow for more staff flexibility and quicker service.
The airport was unusually quiet on Tuesday night, but most of the dozen travelers interviewed said they thought security screenings there were relatively easy and fast.
Alvin Burrows, 19, a sophomore at St. John’s University in Collegeville, said he planned to sleep over at the airport so he could make his early morning flight home to the Bahamas.
“Things usually flow pretty smoothly,” Burrows said, adding that he endorses the idea of more space for passengers as they exit checkpoints.
“Having a place where you can sit down and get your stuff will be nice,” he said.
Matt Anderson, 44, Lakeville, said he flies out of MSP about once a month, mostly to Chicago. On his most recent trip, clearing security in the Twin Cities took about 20 minutes, compared to about 40 minutes when he returned from Chicago’s O’Hare International Airport.
After the construction is done, passengers coming into Terminal 1 will have two checkpoints to choose from: Checkpoint 1 and Checkpoint 6, currently the biggest one at the main terminal, which is at the far left as you face the lobby.
Hogan admitted that the construction would at times be disruptive to passengers. It’s possible that Checkpoint 5, which is currently closed, would be reopened to help when Checkpoint 1 is closed for construction. A plan will be formed with the help of TSA to try to minimize the disruption, he said.
“We will have to do the best we can with the remaining checkpoints until this project is done,” Hogan said.
To help with some of the inconvenience, construction isn’t starting until spring, Hogan said.
“One of the reasons we are not starting construction until April is that will get us past the heavy winter and spring-break travel season this year,” he said.