Recently, the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee held a hearing on infrastructure investments that may be considered in a lame duck session before the end of the year. Central to the issues being debated is new spending on airport infrastructure. I encourage this expanded support for airport infrastructure not because of the jobs it would create in times of economic distress but because the much enhanced airport security that would result. Next to none of the nation’s 450 commercial airports were physically designed with security concerns in mind. A few new terminals, like DFW’s International Terminal, are examples that point the way to the future in terms of physical design to enhance security. Too many terminals today concentrate crowds in ticket lobbies adjacent to glass walls separated from motor vehicles by not much more than a sidewalk. That’s an inviting scenario for a terrorist with an IED.
Also, virtually none of today’s airports are easily able to accommodate employee screening through modern access control checkpoints. The next generation of passenger checkpoint equipment will see its deployment affected by cramped pre-9/11 sized checkpoints. Also, designs to easily and efficiently move vendor goods securely into the sterile areas need to be given priority. And the option to build airport cargo inspection facilities needs to be assessed and forwarded where practical.
The reality is that we have greatly improved airport security since 9/11 with new equipment, better trained officers and a heightened public vigilance. But our capability to actually design airports with physical security as a priority represents an opportunity for a quantum leap forward. There seems to be an emerging consensus to put more money into infrastructure to support jobs and spur economic stability. I believe that airport infrastructure should be a priority. Congress should also consider changing the way airport bonds are treated so as to make them as attractive an investment as possible. The result is not only a good investment in jobs and the economy but an even better one in the next generation of aviation security.