- The Washington Times - Saturday, June 7, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS

Nine bulky luggage scanners worth $1 million each wait silently beneath the new terminal, poised to check for explosives at a combined rate of 3,600 bags an hour.

Concrete bollards guard the main doors. Blast-resistant glass fills the front windows of the $1.1 billion terminal at Indianapolis International Airport, which will open this fall.

New and renovated airports have poured millions of dollars into safety upgrades since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, working advice from explosives experts into design plans that encompass everything from the most secure place for parking garages to more efficient security checkpoints.

“We haven’t had to dig a moat around the terminal or anything,” said Jay McQueen, deputy project director for the Indianapolis terminal. “It’s been an incremental set of changes to help make everything more secure.”

The Sept. 11 attacks, in which hijackers seized control of airliners leaving from Boston, Newark and Washington, triggered a massive re-examination of airport security. Passengers saw the formation of the U.S. Transportation Security Administration shortly after the attacks, and they’ve since become used to spending more time in security checkpoints having their shoes X-rayed and carrying only limited amounts of liquids.

But many other upgrades fly beneath their radar.

“We like to say around here that the best kind of security is the security that you can’t see,” said Ken Capps, vice president of public affairs for the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport, which opened a new international terminal in 2005.

In Indianapolis, those steps include the bollards, windows that will fold like a drape when broken rather than exploding into shards of flying glass, and a 240-foot-wide strip of lawn that will separate the front entrance of the new terminal from its five-story parking garage.

The grassy median, which will be planted between the garage and a road leading up to the terminal, isn’t for pastoral effect. It’s the product of a federal mandate requiring all buildings that hold cars be kept at least 300 feet from an airport terminal. Blast analysis, which looks at how a building withstands an explosion, has become a routine part of airport design, said Tom Darmody, senior vice president of aviation and transportation for the design firm HOK.

“For the most part, people weren’t even thinking about this till after 9/11,” said Andy Bell, vice president of planning at the Dallas/Fort Worth airport.

Planners generally use bollards or cement piers to keep possible bomb-laden cars at least 20 feet to 30 feet from a building’s support beams, said Dick Marchi, a senior adviser with Airports Council International-North America.

“The real fear is that somebody will bring a building down,” Mr. Marchi said. “Turns out with blast protection, a relatively small distance [away] does an awful lot of good.”

Dallas/Fort Worth plans a similar baggage-screening system for its five terminals. Mr. Bell expects to spend about $140 million on it by the time it’s finished in 2010.

Construction started on that airport’s new international terminal shortly before the 2001 attacks. Planners adjusted their design to add $47 million in security upgrades.

They fortified walls with more steel and concrete, and they set up a separate road for deliveries. Drivers must pass a security checkpoint to get near the terminal. Shipments are then dropped at a central location and screened before they reach the vendor.

“This is really the trend of the future,” Mr. Bell said. “Everybody would be basically prearranging this so there wouldn’t be any strange beer truck that comes out of nowhere.”

Airports also hope to boost security by making passengers happier about the checkpoint process.

Indianapolis will use natural light to help improve the mood around its two checkpoints, and it plans to install monitors that tell passengers how long it takes to pass through checkpoints.

AIRTIGHT?

Highlights of airport security improvements undertaken since the September 11 terrorist attacks:

* Installing blast-resistant glass in terminal windows

* Adding catch bars to keep windows from collapsing on people near them

* Adding concrete bollards to keep vehicles away from support beams or doors

* Fortifying support beams with concrete casings

* Building a baggage system that automatically feeds luggage through explosives scanners

* Setting up a remote drop-off point for deliveries

* Constructing parking garages at least 300 feet from the main terminal

* Adding alarms or security cameras to heating and ventilation system rooms

Sources: Dick Marchi, senior adviser with Airports Council International-North America; Andy Bell, vice president of planning at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport; and Jay McQueen, deputy project director for the new Indianapolis International Airport terminal

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