Denver airport still trying to decide: Move some TSA screening upstairs, or just fortify existing …

Denver International Airport officials’ efforts to rein in its over-budget terminal renovation could eliminate plans to relocate the two main security screening areas entirely, nixing a cornerstone of the now-$770 million project.

Project leaders shed new light on the options under consideration for security screening on Wednesday during a Denver City Council briefing. It came two months after The Denver Post first reported on the severity of a budget reckoning that’s underway on the Great Hall Project, caused by cost overruns, construction delays and the airport’s decision to fire the original contracting team last year.

The original security relocation plan was motivated by concerns that the Transportation Security Administration’s screening areas — currently located in the atrium below DIA’s signature tented roof — are vulnerable from above. So the project called for moving both upstairs to the north ends of each side of the terminal, in expanded spaces now occupied by some airline ticket counters.

While the renovation’s first phase resumed with a different project team earlier this year, DIA has acknowledged that just $170 million remains for the rest of the project — a fraction of what’s needed.

The lower-cost alternatives now under consideration for security are to move just one of the checkpoints upstairs or to leave both where they’re at now, said Cristal DeHerrera, DIA’s chief of staff. Either option would result in DIA spending money to install taller barrier walls or other fortifications on the walkways above whichever checkpoints remain in their current locations.

“The conversations that are being had now are, what do we do next?” DeHerrera told the council’s business and aviation committee. “And those include a myriad of variations (about) how do you minimize the vulnerability of the checkpoints?”

CEO Kim Day and other officials have put off releasing a final scope as they work through scale-back options with airlines and other interests. That process may take until late this year, DeHerrera said.

Denver International Airport security options in presentation

Slide from DIA presentation

Denver International Airport officials outlined security screening options under consideration during a presentation to Denver City Council on Oct. 7, 2020.

Day has promised to stick to a $770 million project cost limit, which includes the original $650 million budget plus a contingency fund.

As it stands, it’s possible that only United and Southwest airlines, DIA’s largest carriers, will occupy reconfigured check-in areas on the upper level, leaving airlines with smaller operations to use existing counters. That leaves the security plans as the most consequential unresolved question.

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