Be prepared for a potential long wait if dropping off passengers outside the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at Harry Reid International Airport.
Construction crews have begun installing more than 300 steel bollards in front of the area dedicated to the airport’s busiest commercial airline.
Deeply planted bollards are designed to prevent vehicles from hitting pedestrians on sidewalks. Experts say bollards can stop a flatbed truck at 55 mph.
The one-year, $4.9 million project began in January and moved from the northern end of the ticketing area to the south, where many of Southwest’s roughly 1 million monthly passengers begin their travel.
The construction project has been a headache for all airlines operating from Terminal 1. It is unlikely to improve in the short term, especially as the airport announced this week that June was the busiest month in Reid’s history.
Joe Rajchel, a spokesman for Reid International, said the current plan meant some curbside check-in operations in the South West are not currently available.
“During the current phase of the Terminal 1 Departures curbside kiosk installation project, some of the curbside check-in operations in the South West have been moved indoors between the ticketing counters of American Airlines and Southwest,” Rajchel said in an email. “There is a sign reading as vehicles approach the departures curb directing passengers from the South West to use gate 26 to access this inappropriate operation. Full curbside check-in is still available at Gate 30.”
The curbside area for the southwest is at the end of the building along the one-way lane.
The landing area is divided into two sides. The right side is closest to the terminal and where the bollards are installed, and the left side is where passengers can be dropped off at a pedestrian island and can walk across the street to the terminal.
Either option provides motorists with their own headaches. If you go right, expect to be surrounded by traffic. Go left, you will avoid some traffic, but your passenger has to cross the street between these cars.
Ease the pain
With the latest security measures underway at Reid International, airport officials hope local cooperation will help alleviate short-term construction difficulties.
Here are some suggestions from Rajchel:
— Departing travelers will want to give themselves more time and arrive earlier to account for traffic in the area.
— Use the intermediate carriageway in the departures area. Passengers will have to cross at the walkways, but vehicles will be able to avoid some of the congestion on the departures sidewalk.
— Consider getting dropped off at the departures curb earlier and walking inside to the Southwest ticket counter.
“We also want to remind drivers to exercise caution in the area as more and more pedestrians use the level crossings to get from this mid-carriageway island to the terminal,” Rachel said.
Security efforts began after 9/11
It has been nearly 20 years since the Department of Homeland Security was formed and directives were sent out to fortify airports across the country.
Shortly after the September 11 attacks in New York and Washington, a very convenient parking lot at the then McCarran International Airport was closed to the public because it was too close to the terminal. There was widespread concern that someone could operate a car bomb and damage critical tourist infrastructure as well as take lives.
The Transportation Security Administration was created and integrated into all airports to manage security checkpoints to prevent those who might harm travelers from boarding planes. Other security considerations have since been implemented at airports across the country.
A 2015 incident on the Strip highlighted the need to protect pedestrians from vehicles.
On December 20, 2015, a Sunday evening, Lakeisha Holloway, then 24, drove her Oldsmobile northbound on Las Vegas Boulevard onto the sidewalk in front of the Planet Hollywood resort. Southbound pedestrians dispersed when they saw the car coming, according to the Review-Journal’s report of the incident, but people walking north never saw the car.
Jessica Valenzuela, 32, of Buckeye, Arizona, was pinned under the Oldsmobile for at least 200 yards as pedestrians ran alongside, ramming the car and trying to get Holloway to stop. Valenzuela was killed and 35 others were injured – three had brain damage – as a result of the accident.
Holloway, charged with 71 counts including murder, was ordered by a judge ahead of her scheduled trial date at the state mental health hospital after doctors raised concerns about her competence.
Clark County officials began installing 4,000 bollards along 4 miles of the Strip to protect pedestrians from cars. The first 4-foot poles were installed near the Bellagio fountains, the Hawaiian market and the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.