Be prepared for a potential lengthy wait if you’re dropping off passengers in front of the Southwest Airlines ticket counter at Harry Reid International Airport.
Construction crews have begun installing more of the 300 steel-post bollards in front of the area dedicated to the airport’s busiest commercial air carrier.
The deeply planted bollards are designed to keep vehicles from hitting pedestrians on sidewalks. Experts say the bollards can stop a flat-bed truck traveling at 55 mph.
The yearlong $4.9 million project began in January and has moved from the north end of the ticketing area to the south where many of Southwest’s nearly 1 million monthly passengers begin their journeys.
The construction project has been a headache for all airlines operating from Terminal 1. It’s not likely to get better in the short term, particularly as the airport reported this week that June was the busiest month in Reid’s history.
Joe Rajchel, a spokesman for Reid International, said the current project has meant some Southwest curbside check-in operations are not currently available.
“During the current phase of the Terminal 1 departures curb bollard installation project, some of the Southwest curbside check-in operations have been moved inside between the American Airlines and Southwest ticketing counters,” Rajchel said in an email. “There is a reader board as vehicles approach the departures curb directing Southwest passengers to use Door 26 to access this relocated operation. Full service curbside check-in is still available at Door 30.”
The curbside area for Southwest is at the far end of the building along the one-way drive.
The drop-off area is split into two sides. The right side is closest to the terminal building and where the bollards are being 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 building.
Either option provides its own headaches for motorists. If you go to the right, count on being boxed in by the traffic. Go to the left, you’ll evade some of the traffic, but your passenger has to cross the street between those cars.
Easing the pain
With the newest safety measures underway at Reid International, airport officials are hoping local cooperation will help ease the short-term construction pain.
Here are some suggestions from Rajchel:
— Departing travelers will want to give themselves additional time and arrive earlier to account for traffic in the area.
— Use the middle roadway in the departures area. Passengers will have to cross at the walkways, but the vehicles can avoid some of the congestion of the departures curb.
— Consider getting dropped off at an earlier point of the departures curb and walking inside to the Southwest ticketing counter.
“We also want to remind drivers to exercise caution in the area as more pedestrians use the crossings to get from that middle roadway island to the terminal,” Rachel said.
Safety efforts began after 9/11
It’s been nearly 20 years since the Department of Homeland Security was formed and directives were sent out to fortify the nation’s airports.
Shortly after the 9/11 attacks in New York and Washington, a very convenient parking garage at then-McCarran International Airport was closed to the public because it was too close to the terminal. There was widespread concern that someone could maneuver a car bomb and damage critical tourism infrastructure as well as take lives.
The Transportation Security Administration was formed and embedded at all airports to man security checkpoints to prevent those who would do travelers harm from getting on airplanes. Other safety considerations have since been implemented at airports across the country.
A 2015 incident on the Strip underscored the need to protect pedestrians from vehicles.
On Dec. 20, 2015, a Sunday night, Lakeisha Holloway, then 24, drove her northbound Oldsmobile on Las Vegas Boulevard onto the sidewalk in front of the Planet Hollywood resort. Southbound pedestrians scattered when they saw the car coming, according to the Review-Journal report of the incident, but people walking northbound never saw the car.
Jessica Valenzuela, 32, of Buckeye, Arizona, was trapped under the Oldsmobile for at least 200 yards as pedestrians ran alongside, banging on the car and trying to get Holloway to stop. Valenzuela was killed and 35 others were injured — three had brain injuries — as a result of the crash.
Holloway, charged with 71 criminal counts, including murder, was ordered by a judge before her scheduled trial date to the state mental health hospital after doctors raised concerns about her competency.
Clark County officials began efforts to install 4,000 bollards along 4 miles of the Strip to protect pedestrians from cars. The first 4-foot posts were installed near the fountains of Bellagio, the Hawaiian Marketplace and the “Welcome to Fabulous Las Vegas” sign.