Passengers wait in a security check line at Austin-Bergstrom International Airport. All three existing checkpoints would benefit from machine upgrades but remain largely unchanged. (Benton Graham / Community Impact Journal)
With passenger numbers approaching pre-pandemic levels, Austin-Bergstrom International Airport is moving quickly to increase security capacity, proposing a project that would add a fourth security checkpoint and upgrade machinery at three points existing controls.
The Airports Advisory Board approved sending the $ 1.5 million project to Austin City Council for final approval at its Oct. 12 meeting.
The potential investment comes after ABIA announced a massive expansion effort in July, called the Airport Expansion and Development Program, which aims to keep the airport on track to accommodate 31 million passengers by 2037, as planned in the Master plan 2040.
Shane Harbinson, deputy head of planning and development for the aviation department, said the airport plans to start work on the additional security checkpoint in November with a completion date between December and February 2022 It would have three lanes with the ability to expand to four lanes in the future.
Harbinson also said that upgrading Transportation Security Administration machines at the three existing checkpoints will play an important role in speeding up the security process for travelers.
“The goal is that this new machine that TSA has installed should be faster, so your throughput should be, instead of 150 or  passengers per hour, you can maybe get 180 because it’s a faster machine, ”Harbinson said.
According to the Aviation Documents Department, the number of passengers in August reached 1.3 million, up from 1.5 million in August 2019. The airport also had its fourth busiest day on October 8, with 30 010 passengers, airport spokesman Sam Haynes said. She added that the second weekend of the Austin City Limits Music Festival and the University of Texas football game against the University of Oklahoma likely played a role in the increase in passenger traffic.
With these numbers on the rise, the airport is asking passengers to arrive at the airport 2.5 hours before departure for domestic flights and 3 hours before international flights.
The Airport Advisory Board did not unanimously support the project, as President Eugene Sepulveda said he feared the airport had prioritized expanding security over improved exit options for passengers with reduced mobility.
“I will publicly declare that I am unhappy with the lack of priority for people with reduced mobility [people] and the elderly in the design and maintenance of what we do here, ”Sepulveda said.
The main terminal has two exits but the addition of two more exits as part of its expansion program has been discussed.
The airport expects Austin city council to vote on the security expansion plan ahead of the Nov. 9 Airport Advisory Board meeting, Haynes said.
Editor’s Note: This story has been updated to reflect the fact that the main terminal currently has two airports.