New KCI Baggage Security System in Works

Construction of an automated explosive-detection baggage system at Kansas City International Airport will be done in phases, with the first one set to start late this year.

That first $20 million phase of the estimated $60 million project is being designed and will take about eight more months to complete, said Phil Brown, Kansas City's deputy director of aviation.

The explosives-detection system screens checked luggage before it is put on a plane.

Numerous airports across the country have installed inline baggage screening systems since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Typically, they are integrated with an airport's existing baggage conveyor system and are considered efficient because they allow luggage to be screened after passengers check it at the ticket counter.

Tentative plans call for the first phase of construction at KCI to be done for the baggage-handling systems of American, United, Midwest, Frontier and Delta airlines, Brown said.

'By this time next year, there should be construction going on,' he said. 'It will be a very complex project because we have to do it without disrupting the airlines and we have to rely on the Transportation Security Administration for equipment.'

No timetable has been set for the start of the other phases.

The design by California-based Jacob Facilities Inc. must be approved by the security administration and the Federal Aviation Administration before any construction starts.

Grants from the security administration and FAA are paying for a majority of the project's cost.

The city already has received the $20 million in grants needed to start the first phase of construction. U.S. Rep. Sam Graves, a Missouri Republican whose district includes KCI, said he helped secure $3 million for the project through the $388 billion federal spending bill for 2005. Congress passed the bill in November, and President Bush has signed it into law.

'The safety of our skies depends upon the security on the ground,' Graves said. 'We must continue to fund a sound airport security policy.'

Construction of the inline baggage screening system could call for rerouting some of the conveyor baggage belt equipment and the further expansion of terminal space, airport officials said.

The recently completed renovations expanded some terminal areas by as much as 15 feet beyond original exterior walls. Much of that expansion was done in passenger waiting lounges.