KAHULUI - Just in time for the busy holiday travel season, a $3.2 million expansion of Kahului Airport's security screening checkpoints was dedicated Tuesday, with the project aimed at alleviating long lines while assisting security officials check passengers.
"It's a win for everyone," said Maui District Airports Manager Marvin Moniz, after the morning ceremony.
Now, the number of security checkpoints has grown from four to seven lanes near the airport's check-in lobby, and there's another check-in point added to the existing one near the passenger exit area. Now, there's capacity for nine security checkpoint areas during peak travel times at the airport.
Dignitaries get a behind-the-scenes look at Kahului Airport’s expanded passenger security screening checkpoint after taking part in Tuesday’s dedication ceremony. The total number of security checkpoint lanes increased to nine.
The Maui News / MATTHEW THAYER photo
The expansion project was a joint effort by Moniz, with the state Department of Transportation; William Pursley, federal security director for Maui County airports; and the Airlines Committee of Hawaii.
On average, the airport sees 8,000 departing passengers daily, state officials said. During the holidays, that number jumps to 9,500, or as high as 11,000.
Passenger waiting times before the expansion could have been as long as an hour, Moniz said, but now, he estimated that the longest checkpoint waiting times will be between six and nine minutes.
Kailua, Oahu, resident Ian Kapostins said he noticed that lines were shorter than usual.
Although he had yet to go through the screening process, he said it was "less of a wait, it seems like."
Fellow traveler Candice Coratibo of Waiehu said the walk to the new checkpoint was a little longer than what it had been before.
Although the new checkpoint is closer to the ticket lobby, travelers must still walk to the airport's courtyard area, but then walk back toward the ticket lobby to the new checkpoint.
The new checkpoints still lead passengers to the two escalators that bring them to the main terminal lobby area and to departure gates.
Department of Transportation spokeswoman Caroline Sluyter said a study concluded that the current structures could handle the additional traffic.
Speakers at Tuesday's dedication program praised the partnership of the three agencies. Also, the project was finished four months ahead of schedule and about $300,000 under budget, according to information provided to The Maui News. The project went from concept to completion in less than seven months.
State Sen. J. Kalani English, whose redrawn 7th Senate District includes the Kahului Airport, also praised the project.
"Let's use this as a blueprint for other projects," he told the approximately 75 people who attended the ceremony.
English and Mayor Alan Arakawa spoke about waiting in line at the checkpoint for 45 minutes or an hour during peak times.
English, who is also the state Senate's Transportation Committee chairman, said that in the past he has heard in many languages people saying,
" 'How come this is taking so long?' "
While the public is expected to see less of a wait, Pursley said the expansion also gives Transportation Security Administration officials more elbow room and space to work in and enhances security at the airport.
"To me, it's all about security and keeping America safe," said Pursley, who is retiring at the end of the year after spending 10 years with TSA and, prior to that, 35 years at Delta airlines.
He said he was going to see the checkpoint expansion through before he retired.
"This is a terrific effort," he said of the partnership with the expansion.
With the expansion, TSA has eight new metal detector machines. It still uses its approximately 1-year-old Advanced Imaging Technology body scanner machine. That device doesn't produce invasive body images, but it is sensitive enough to detect a plastic bag in a pocket.
Kahului Airport will get four more body scanning machines in the first quarter of 2013, Pursley said.
In addition, Maui County's TSA recently launched its dog teams, in which canines and their handlers patrol the airport looking for suspicious behavior and packages.
* Melissa Tanji can be reached at email@example.com.