Sun Sentinel Broward Edition
Faster US entry, walkways, shade for the Fort Lauderdale airport
Relief is finally on the way for passengers forced to wade through long customs lines at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.
In the next few days, about six more inspection stations are being placed in the Customs and Border Protection baggage claim area, allowing officers to move passengers more quickly toward the exit.
In June, U.S. citizens and legal residents can take advantage of Mobile Passport, a mobile app that allows travelers to submit passport and customs declaration information via a smartphone or tablet. That will allow them to quickly claim
their luggage and depart the airport.
In June or July, automated passport control will be expanded to allow foreign travelers to use kiosks to enter passport information. Currently, only U.S. citizens and legal residents can do so. That will increase the number of travelers who can use automated passport control from about 60 to 90 percent.
And by 2017, the inspection area in Terminal 4 will be remodeled and expanded by 35,000 square feet, doubling its size and capacity. As a key part of that, the congested baggage claim area will triple in size.
“The inspection process will be significantly changing,” said Doug Webster, the airport’s deputy director. “We will be using a different concept, which leverages automation and technology.”
He added that construction work will be done in phases and shouldn’t interfere with the current customs operation.
The customs area is one of several major projects planned or underway at the airport, intended to make travel faster and easier. Because it sees about 5,800 international passengers per day — and has been plagued with waits of more than two hours — it has become a top priority.
In all, the airport is spending about $50 million to improve the customs area in Terminal 4. A second federal inspection area is to be built in Terminal 1 by 2017.
Customs spokesman Keith Smith noted that average wait times already have been cut by about five minutes since Jan. 1, despite about a 20 percent increase in international traffic so far this year.
“It’s mainly because of increased efficiency,” he said.
The status of other air- port projects:
Sidewalk canopies: Aluminum canopies to provide shade and shelter against the elements have been installed on the upper-level sidewalk between terminals 1 and 2 and between terminals 2 and 3. The canopies between terminals 3 and 4 are to be erected by June. The airport wants it done quickly. “It gets pretty warm down here,” said Steve Wiesner, the airport’s assistant director of aviation.
Terminal renovations: All four terminals are being modernized with airy lobbies, new carpeting, new restaurants and shops, upgraded bathrooms and expanded seating areas. Some already have gotten new jet bridges, leading from the terminal to the aircraft door. While Terminal 3 is almost done, no completion date has been set for Terminal 2, and Terminal 1 is to be done by May 2017. Because it will double in size, Terminal 4, primarily catering to international traffic, is a standalone project with the first phase of construction to be completed in July and the second in early 2018.
New restaurants: In a major upgrade to dining options, 80 restaurants are to steadily move into the four terminals within the next three years. About half already are open, such as Café Kalik in Terminal 4, Starbucks in Terminal 2 and Shula Burger in Terminal 1. However, some are in temporary locations. Many will open within the next year, such as Outback, Tarpon Bend, Anthony’s Coal Fired Pizza and Jack Nicklaus Golden Bear Grill. Additionally, several popular retail stores will open in the terminals, including Harley-Davidson, Fossil, Guess, Dylan’s Candy and PGA Tour.
Better signs: All of the airport’s signs are to be standardized within the next two years to more clearly direct passengers to their airlines and motorists to the parking garages. Of note, the airport will start work this summer to install dynamic illuminated signs along the airport entrance road to note which airlines are in which terminals.
Pedestrian bridges: Four pedestrian bridges, connecting the parking garages to terminals 2, 3 and 4 are to be upgraded and repainted, starting in August.
New taxiways: Two parallel taxiways are being built; one is to be completed this week and the other in September. Wiesner said they might reduce aircraft noise. “These should allow aircraft to get around the airfield quicker,” he said. “They give us a lot of flexibility.” firstname.lastname@example.org or 561-243-6530.