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Your wait at airport screening could get shorter soon

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Short lines this morning at MSP checkpoints.
Travelers head for the North Security Checkpoint in Terminal 1 at the Minneapolis St. Paul International Airport.
Tim Nelson | MPR News file

The Twin Cities airport plans to spend more than $1 million to make a time-consuming and sometimes awkward part of the screening process more streamlined.

The Metropolitan Airports Commission on Monday approved the purchase of so-called automated security lanes that promise to increase the capacity of passenger screening by as much as 40 percent, using automatic bin dispensers and conveyors. The new system, recommended by the Transportation Security Administration, is expected to be in place for summer travel season.

Occupying the center four lanes of the south checkpoint in Terminal 1, the equipment will feature rows of five stations, each with a bin dispenser so people can fill bins without waiting as long for a spot. The loaded bins move on roller belts into X-ray inspection, as passengers head to their own screening. The system also separates out bins that need extra inspection.

Automatic bin dispensers
Automated security lanes could increase the capacity of passenger screening by using automatic bin dispensers and conveyors. They're currently in use in Chicago's O'Hare airport and in Atlanta.
Courtesy Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport

A memo on the purchase, requesting $1.6 million for the system, says airports with this equipment in place are moving travelers through screening faster at a rate "in the range of 10 to 40 percent."

"From the little bit of data we've seen from other airports, they are showing quite an increase in efficiencies," said Bridget Rief, director of airport development. "People are able to process faster through the system."

He added Minnesota's more bundled-up passengers may mean somewhat less efficiency.

The new equipment is the first of a two-part upgrade that will likely include more lanes leading to the TSA screening stations.

The automated security systems are already in place at Chicago's O'Hare airport as well as Newark, New Jersey. They debuted at Atlanta's Hartsfield-Jackson airport late last spring.