Good news, jet-setters. For the first time in twelve years, passengers at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport can now check their baggage at the ticket counter instead of wheeling it across the terminal to an explosive detector.
Lambert officials, along with Mayor Francis Slay and County Executive Charlie Dooley, announced the near-completion of the $50.7 million baggage system overhaul Tuesday. The new system maintains the security systems put in place after the September 11 attacks while freeing up space in the terminal and making check-in smoother for passengers.
In Terminal 1, the new system uses three explosive detection system machines out of public view and off the main floor. A new 4,200-foot conveyor system transports baggage from the ticket counter, through the machines and to the airlines.
Terminal 2's new system will go live in April. A shorter conveyor belt of 2,258 feet takes bags through the same detection machines.
"For passengers, it's a return to the days of being able to actually check-in your bags at the ticket counter which is a convenience we haven't been able to experience at Lambert in more than twelve years," says airport director Rhonda Hamm-Niebruegge. "Better yet, the stand-alone screening machines in the ticket areas will no longer be needed, freeing up space and improving the open space of our terminals."
If a bag needs additional security screening, the new system automatically diverts the bag to a room where security officers can do a hands-on inspection.
"Incorporating a state-of-the-art explosive-detection-system technology into an automated system such as we now have at [Lambert] not only increases efficiencies and allows for airport growth, but it reduces TSA officer injuries from lifting and moving heavy bags," says federal security director Bill Switzer. "In fact, most alarms can be resolved in the image-resolution room without ever opening a bag."
Ninety percent of the more than $50 million project -- or about $45.6 million -- came from grants and funding from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
To (literally) top off all the improvements, the airport is also replacing its 60-year-old solid copper roof in a $6.7 million project over the next ten months.
"The days are numbered to see the wonderful green patina on top of this architecturally historic building," says Mayor Francis Slay. "The new skin will shine of raw copper like it did in the mid-'50s when the terminal was built. The roof will slowly transform in color again with time as this airport serves new generations in this region."
The new roof is made of copper bonded with a stainless-steel core, making it more durable, and it will cover about 102,000 square feet.
The copper will start out a light bronze color but will turn dark brown after a year of exposure to the elements. Over the next couple of decades, the roof will slowly change to a soft green once again.