Changes to speed security checks at Nashville airport near completion

By CHRISTINA E. SANCHEZ • Staff Writer • April 23, 2008

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Frequent flier Randy Bostic is used to the bottlenecks that often form at security screening lanes at Nashville International Airport.

"It usually gets a little bit congested at the busy times," said Bostic, a local businessman who flies out of Nashville about twice a month. "Two lines merge to go through one gate."

Officials with the Transportation Security Administration, which has handled airport security post-9/11, hope renovations under way at the airport reduce checkpoint wait times and enhance security.

TSA opened a newly renovated security checkpoint last week at the A/B Concourse, where there are now a skylight, raised ceilings, more space to move and a soon-to-be-operating rock waterfall wall.

The improvements are part of a $3.3 million checkpoint project that will be completed in late July, when there will be 12 security-screening lanes, up from nine. One central security screening area will serve the A/B and C/D concourses, said Paul Armes, TSA federal security director at Nashville.

"This coincides with TSA efforts to evolve the checkpoint process and make it a quieter, routine process," Armes said. "The more open area also allows us to have a greater view of the individuals entering the checkpoint."

Erecting temporary "dust" walls means travelers won't see the ongoing construction, though they may hear an occasional chain saw, and the renovations won't interfere with travel. Customers may notice that Capital Grill and Andrew Jackson Tavern are gone, however.

To make room for the renovations, the airport had to take the restaurants' space.

Other amenities are being added in their place, including Tootsies, which has opened near the A/B concourse, and a Starbucks that will open this summer, said
Emily Richard, spokeswoman for Nashville International.

More amenities will be added in the gate area.

But, first, the goal is to get people past security, where wait times vary, depending on date and time of travel.

The busiest day tends to be Monday, when wait times can average about 20 minutes at 5 a.m., but generally grow shorter throughout the morning, according to the TSA Web site.

Security has to move 200 people an hour through the checkpoints and on the way to gates to meet wait time goals.

Wait times trimmed
"Our goal is to get people through in 10 minutes at peak times," Armes said.

"At A/B, we are already seeing improved wait times by two or three minutes."

The Nashville businessman, Bostic, said Nashville's airport is friendlier and more efficient than many of the airports he visits.

"I've had pretty good experiences here," Bostic said just before entering a security-screening area.

"The people are a lot nicer, and things move along quicker — most of the time. I'm interested how the new checkpoints work."

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