To alleviate passenger lines that have extended out the door, the Durango-La Plata County Airport added a second security line Thursday, but the departure lounge should continue to be congested for another three weeks or so as a temporary expansion is not expected to open until July 15.
Kip Turner, director of aviation, said the second line by the Transportation Security Administration should expedite the screening process and put the airport “in the realm of being normal.”
The airport has struggled with growing problems with the number of arriving passengers rising 15.6 percent in May and 16.6 percent for the year, serving a total of 72,945 arriving passengers and 73,834 passengers who were leaving Durango through the end of May. Flights on average were 75 percent full last month.
Long waits for security have caused passengers to miss flights. The screening line has temporarily shut down to relieve congestion in the departure lounge.
Airport staff reorganized seating within the lounge to make room for the second security line.
Even with the second security line, Turner still advised passengers to get to the airport 90 minutes before their flight if leaving at a busy time like noon or 3 p.m.
If the second security line is welcome news, the delay in the opening of an expansion was “heart-breaking,” Turner said Thursday at the Durango-La Plata Airport Commission meeting.
Officials had hoped the 4,500 square feet addition of the temporary fabric structure would have opened by mid-June, “but July 15 is better than not having it at all,” Turner said.
The contractor, named Lone Star but based in California, has fallen behind schedule because of “employee problems,” Turner told the commission.
The fabric structure would accommodate 300 more passengers waiting for their flights. The current lounge can handle 230 people, but has seating for 150.
Recognizing the airport’s “desperate need for restrooms,” officials also are considering adding restrooms for the fabric structure, either in a trailer or an equivalent-type fabric structure, whichever model is cheaper.
The airport has only one rest room that meets the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. It is not in the departure lounge.
Also at the meeting, the commission voted to support a grant-funded project of the Animas Watershed Partnership to construct a fence and new sprinkler system along an eight-tenths-of-a-mile section of riverfront airport property that is leased as pasture land.
The goal of the fence and new sprinkler system is to keep livestock, including horses, cows and sheep, out of the Florida River, said Ann Oliver, coordinator of the Animas Watershed Partnership, which seeks to improve water quality in Colorado and New Mexico.