While most of Whatcom County was asleep Monday night, workers at the Port of Bellingham’s International Airport were working non-stop to move the airport security checkpoint to a new location.
Because airport security, operated by the federal Transportation Security Administration (TSA), is essential for all commercial flights, work had to be completed within the window of time without departing flights. The move of all security screening equipment and operations got started at 8 p.m. and was operational in its new location in time for passengers arriving at about 4 a.m. today.
“This overnight relocation took the cooperation and teamwork of the Port, TSA technicians and Dawson Construction,” said Port Executive Director Rob Fix. “Every step of our airport expansion requires a lot of coordination since our airport must remain operational, but this step was especially critical.”
The airport is in the middle of a multiyear $38 million expansion that will be complete in January 2014 and will expand the commercial terminal from 25,615 square feet to 101,168 square feet. Some portions of the building such as the expanded gate holding area already are in use.
The Monday night moving teams relocated the existing two screening X-ray machines and the one magnetometer (walk-thru metal detector). The new checkpoint configuration is the same as the existing configuration but in a new location, in the newly constructed (partially completed) screening checkpoint area. The new 6,000 square foot, fully constructed, screening checkpoint, which will be large enough to accommodate an additional screening line, will be complete in January 2014. The original screening area was just 2,000 square feet.
Although passengers may appreciate the new screening area, the big improvement from this step is that the very crowded ticketing area of the commercial terminal will gain additional space from the former security screening area. About 3,000 square feet of new space will be available in the ticketing area, which should ease congestion and reducing waiting times.
The Port of Bellingham operates the Bellingham International Airport, which offers flights to 11 non-stop destinations with service by Allegiant Air, Alaska Air, Horizon Air and Frontier Airlines. More than 570,000 passengers flew out of the Bellingham Airport in 2012.
The airport is not supported by property taxes. Its operational and capital expansion costs are paid for by airport users, airlines, and airport businesses. The Port is a countywide independent government that operates the airport, Bellingham Cruise Terminal, Fairhaven Transportation Station, Bellingham Shipping Terminal, Squalicum and Blaine Marinas and extensive industrial, commercial and mixed-use real estate.