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DIA Acknowledges Travel Woes, Adjusts for the Future

click to enlarge A rendering of what DIA could look like in 2045. Catie Cheshire
As recently as a year and a half ago, the Denver International Airport thought it would reach 100 million annual passengers by 2032. It’s now realized those numbers aren’t fairy dust — and in fact, are coming much sooner than that.According to Phil Washington , CEO of DIA, the airport now projects it will hit 100 million annual passengers by 2027 and it’s adjusting its future plans based on the new numbers.Operation 2045, as its been dubbed, will attempt to prepare the airport for 120 million (or more) passengers annually over the next two decades to help celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the airport in 2045.DIA has already seen 36.5 million passengers in 2023 and expects to see 78 million by the time the year is over — after initially planning for around 73 or 74 million.“I think it has surprised everybody,” Washington said of the increasing air travel numbers at an October 4 press conference. “There was a time where we could pick the rush hours for this airport. Now it’s always rush hour.”By 2045, the plan is for the airport to add four new concourses directly attached to the main terminal meant for larger processing and gate capacity. “We’re preparing for the immediate time frame with security improvements and things like that but we’re also looking out to 2045 as well,” Washington explained. “It is our responsibility as infrastructure professionals to prepare for the next generation of passengers that come through here.”But with talk of expansion and improvements comes the dread of even more construction , which passengers have endured for years as DIA works to renovate its Great Hall, C terminal and security systems.“I don’t think so,” Washington said when asked if the new plan would lead to endless construction. “The terminal impacts people the most and the Great Hall. …It’s tough constructing something that people are still walking through.”According to Washington, the Great Hall project is set to wrap up ahead of schedule — starting with the new West Security checkpoint, which will have a soft opening in January 2024, before permanently opening on February 6.“We have TSA training on that equipment to run it like a Ferrari,” he said.Currently, the TSA equipment at DIA gets about 150 people through security per lane, per hour. That will increase to 250 with the new technology at the west checkpoint, according to Washington.Dave Laporte, deputy chief operating officer at the airport, noted multiple people will be able to take off their shoes and put their luggage in bins at each lane of the new checkpoint. Additionally, new technology will allow for remote viewing of scanned luggage, leading to more screeners than lanes.TSA’s updated identity authentication software will also be using facial recognition , Laporte said, that should speed things up for everyone. Future improvements that will possibly automate luggage screening are planned as well, which will help eliminate the need for a TSA agent to examine each piece of luggage and free agents up to only deal with problem luggage or items that software can’t determine or process as flyable.The new checkpoint will have seventeen lanes and be evaluated for a few weeks starting February 6, 2024, at which point the North Security checkpoint will close for renovation and eventually transform into a new

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