Local officials hope to make the search for rest rooms and parking at the Juneau Airport less challenging.
The airport is drawing up plans to build rest rooms inside the departure lounge, airport Manager Allan Heese said. Passengers waiting for planes have to go outside the airport's security checkpoint to find a rest room.
"That's a very hot topic now," he said. "We're working diligently with Alaska Airlines, CBJ staff and the FAA. I feel confident we can get it done in short order."
At this point, Heese said the airport isn't sure what the new rest rooms will cost or when they will be built. The airport is exploring whether funding from the city and the federal government would be available, he said.
The parking issue has been more tricky. The airport closed its short-term parking lot after Sept. 11 under order from the Federal Aviation Administration. A request to the FAA to waive the 300-foot parking ban around the airport was denied this month, Heese said.
The change has meant less revenue for the airport and a longer walk for travelers, Heese said.
"Probably the biggest problem is the distance in the bad weather. If we could somehow keep people out of the weather while they walked, they'd be OK," he said. "But we are going to run out of space as the season gets busier."
The airport's best option for opening the short-term lot may be to search cars, Heese said.
"Right now, it seems there are three options. Leave it shut down, which is not desirable, vehicle inspections or searches, or a blast wall," he said. "There may be others we haven't thought of."
Juneau Airport Board Chairman Mike Barton said he's been hearing concerns from the public about the parking lot and the rest rooms. The airport hopes to be reimbursed for the costs, but isn't sure how much or when funding might be available, he said.
"We're working hard to make things as convenient as possible given the requirements, but I know it's aggravating," he said.
The airport has asked the FAA to reimburse $200,000 in operating costs to cover Sept. 11-associated losses this fiscal year, airport Business Manager Patty de La Bruere said. The airport plans to use its reserve account if the money doesn't come through, she added.
"We were able to work to cut things. We dug deep to lower things here and there," she said. "We're using a little from the reserve account to offset (fiscal years) '03 and '04. We didn't want to, at this time, change rates and fees too much. Some will change, but we just have done that."
Kathy Mally, a former Juneau resident who was returning home to Spokane on Tuesday morning, said rest room and parking lot changes are a good idea.
"I don't know why you can't park in that lot with all the screening and everything going on inside," she said. "It's not like you have 100,000 people living here."
Juneau resident Warren Eastland, who was flying to Barrow on Tuesday, said improved rest room access is an excellent idea, especially because passengers are expected to stand in line earlier. He objects to a policy that allows taxis to wait in the short-term lot when other vehicles can't, he said.
"I think they have just gone totally bloody overboard," he said. "It's time the clowns in Washington wake up and realize that one size does not fit all."
What's appropriate at Reagan National Airport in Washington, D.C., may not be appropriate in Juneau, he said.
Jim Mitchell, spokesman for the new federal Transportation Security Administration, which took over transportation security responsibilities for the FAA last weekend, said the federal government has tried to find a balanced approach to safety that takes the traveling public and local communities into account. He couldn't comment specifically on Juneau's situation.
"Our approach to the entire security issue is one of common sense," he said from Washington, D.C. "We're trying to look at all the security arrangements to look for things that work the best for everybody."
Joanna Markell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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