As Traffic Swells, Vegas' McCarran Airport Continues Growth - Business Travel News

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As Traffic Swells, Vegas' McCarran Airport Continues Growth

March 17, 2008 - 12:00 AM ET

By Frank Rosci

A series of construction initiatives, including a new terminal and concourse that should help accommodate passenger traffic levels that have soared each year since 2004, is transforming Las Vegas' McCarran International Airport.

Terminal 3, a $1.8-billion, 14-gate complex, with six for international gates, will stand three stories high, with its own ticketing, baggage claim, security and a 6,000-space parking garage, is scheduled to open in 2012. It is the largest part of the airport's nearly $4 billion capital improvement program, known as McCarran Vision 2020, said Randall Walker, director of the Clark County Department of Aviation, which operates McCarran.

When it opens, the new terminal will connect to Concourse D via an underground, 950-ft. tram system that will allow the terminal to feed D gates, currently fed through Terminal 1. Also at D, work continues on a new northwest wing that will include nine additional gates and stores and restaurants upon its completion this summer.

Eventually, Terminals 1 and 3 will feed all of D's gates, and the airport's total gates will rise from today's 95 to 118 in 2012, with airport capacity rising to 53 million passengers from 47.7 million served in 2007.

Travelers will use whichever terminal houses their airline, Walker said, thereby reducing the congestion that exists today with nearly all passengers using the same facility.

"In addition to building new gates, new terminals and other infrastructure improvements, we've increased our use of technology to make back-of-the-house operations run much more efficiently," Walker said.

Such is the case with the airportwide, in-line baggage screening system that makes use of radio frequency identification tags to track bags, introduced in September 2005 and now in use at nearly 100 percent of the airport.

Elsewhere at McCarran, according to Walker, a new Concourse C checkpoint annex will bring 12 more Transportation Security Administration security lanes to the airport's existing total of 34 later this year. At that time, the checkpoint that serves Concourses C and D will shift to processing passengers who primarily are headed to Concourse D, Walker said.

Near Concourse C, work continues on an adjacent skybridge, slated for completion during the second half of 2008, that will allow passengers to move among concourses without having to pass through additional security checkpoints, according to Walker.

An expansion of the baggage claim in Terminal 1 will enlarge eight of 16 carousels there. The project, to be completed in either November or December 2008, will allow the 16 carousels to handle about 20 percent more baggage during peak periods, Walker said.

Meanwhile, McCarran's off-airport baggage check-in program, Airport SpeedCheck Advance, continues to grow. Passengers may check up to three bags for $20, as early as 12 hours before a flight, at The Venetian and Luxor hotels, the Las Vegas Convention Center and the McCarran Rent-A-Car Center.
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