Travelers to get more elbow room at airport

June opening is planned for addition

To alleviate overcrowding in its departure lounge, the Durango-La Plata County Airport plans to double the space with a temporary addition that could accommodate about a couple hundred people, according to Kip Turner, the airport’s director of aviation.

The 4,500 square-foot tensile structure should be in place by mid-to-late June, connected to the west side of the passenger lounge through a new entrance.

Coincidentally, the Transportation Security Administration is also supposed to add a second passenger screening line by June 14, to be parallel to the current screening line, Turner said.

The airport has been coping with growing pains with passenger boardings up 16 percent in April 2013 compared with April 2012 and the likelihood that the airport could surpass 200,000 passengers for the first time by the end of the year.

As a result of the congestion, passengers have complained of missing flights because they could not get through the security line in time. TSA has temporarily shut down screenings because the departure lounge was overcrowded and could not accept any more people for safety reasons.

With the busy summer tourist season approaching, officials wanted to expand the departure lounge as soon as possible.

“We need immediate relief inside the terminal,” Turner said. “This is an urgent need.”

As part of its consent agenda today, City Council will be asked to approve $539,653 for the tensile structure by transferring funding that had been slated for the construction of additional airport parking.

Turner said the temporary structure will have all the regular amenities such as seating, flooring and central heat, but passengers will have to walk back to the current lounge to use a restroom, or for a window to look outside.

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