Baggage Screening System Puts Pinch on Indianapolis Airport Budget

Stiffer security means adding a screening system to baggage transport, but officials ask who can pay for the new system

Officials have shelved plans for a rapid transit system at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport in order to build a $122 million baggage system and additional security checkpoints, said Sky Harbor spokeswoman Deborah Ostreicher.

"We had all kinds of plans pre-9/11," Ostreicher said. "But with all the security changes combined, we began to plan things differently."

Phoenix, however, is slated to receive at least some federal funding for security. Airports more comparable in size to Indianapolis have not been as fortunate.

Nashville International Airport in Tennessee wants to install a $30 million baggage screening system similar to the one planned for Indianapolis, said Raul Regalado, president and chief executive of the Nashville Airport Authority. Airport traffic has thrived because of the popularity there of low-cost carrier Southwest Airlines, which accounts for about half of all travel.

But Regalado said the airport -- which, like Indianapolis, serves about 8 million passengers a year -- cannot afford the baggage project without federal money.

"It's a lot of money by any standard you use," he said. "Our position and approach is: It's their mandate, their responsibility."

Indianapolis' baggage system is just one of a slew of security enhancements that project officials here have either completed or hope to incorporate in the new terminal.

Officials have used more than $15 million in federal grants to upgrade the existing terminal with a bag screening system, a new alarm network, better surveillance, blast-proof windows and other improvements. Workers erected new perimeter fencing.

In addition, designers have modified the blueprint for the midfield terminal -- adding a second security checkpoint area, boosting the space around the checkpoints, planning for a better camera system and other changes.

Still, the cost of those improvements is mounting.

"We have a limited amount of money, so we have to maximize the use of those dollars," said TSA spokeswoman Amy Von Walter. "Certainly, there are constraints on what can be done."