DENVER — Denver International Airport (DIA) will be adding four new temporary security lanes which will accommodate about 600 people per hour to help alleviate long security lines.
"That makes a lot of difference when you're talking about the thousands of people that are moving through," said Phil Washington, the new CEO at DIA.
Washington, who has been on the job for about three months, said the TSA has committed to staffing those additional lanes which will bring the total at the airport to 32 lanes.
TSA has had its issues with staffing shortages, and Washington said they've offered incentives to help with recruitment and retention rates. They've also been bringing in staff from other areas to support DIA.
Washington said he's pushing for the lanes as a priority but said the reality is they may not be in place before the holidays.
"This holiday period will be tough as we build out," he said.
They're also proposing to expand to 42 lanes total and the four temporary lanes are meant to bridge the gap until that project is approved.
In the interim it will be very important, Washington said, that passengers arrive earlier than usual to make sure they're able to navigate to their gate on time.
"[We are] encouraging people to be in the airport two hours prior, not leave your house two hours prior, but actually be in the airport two hours prior," he said. "And if you're using the Pikes Peak lot or other lots tack on 30 to 45 minutes to that."
Increased passenger traffic
Earlier this month, a spokesperson for the airport said since the country began to recover from the pandemic, DIA has been the third-busiest airport in the world.
The airport was initially designed to accommodate about 50 million passengers per year and they're predicting that 78.2 million will travel through it in 2022.
"We have a lot of work to do to retrofit this airport," Washington said.
They're not stopping there but are planning ahead with Vision 100, which is a plan to accommodate 100 million passengers in the next five to eight years.
Washington said it's not far fetched that by 2050 the airport could see between 140 and 150 million passengers per year.
About two weeks ago, on Oct. 9, DIA warned passengers that its parking lots were nearing capacity and urged passengers to try offsite lots. Later that same day, the airport said those lots were nearly full and told passengers to consider using the RTD A-Line, a ride-share service, taxi or any other mode of transportation besides driving there and parking.
Part of the parking issue is due to the closures of the Pikes Peak and Mount Elbert shuttle lots. They have been closed since May 2020 and the airport said it has not been able to reopen them because of a lack of shuttle drivers.
"We're doing everything we can to get those lots open," Washington said. "What we are proposing and what we are planning is to look to waive some of the requirements in the existing contract that call for a commercial driver's license (CDL) to be hired."
He said they want to bring out folks without that CDL and use smaller vehicles until those drivers are trained and receive their CDL. He hopes that will be a permanent change.
DIA has temporarily opened the Pikes Peak lot on weekends to help meet the demand, however bus service from the Pikes Peak lot to the terminal is reduced, so passengers who park there should allow an extra 45 minutes to get to the terminal.
Terminal train issues
Washington also addressed issues with the train between terminals, specifically a recent issue where a portion of the track was ripped up rendering the train inoperable for an extended period of time.
"To have one way to get people out to concourses B and C is a huge vulnerability," he said.
He's said they're putting out a request early next week to the private sector for ideas or possible solutions to that issue.
"Now at the same time, the magnitude of the breakdown was unprecedented," he said. "Typically if you rip a wheel, you take the wheel off, the track is still good, but it ripped up the track and so that prevented us from running trains on that track. That is the first time that that has happened to that degree in 26 years at this airport."
Washington said they'll need to look at the cost of potential solutions and weigh them with the potential benefits.
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