Glad songs and cider to soothe the savage traveler
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That means when would-be travelers arrive at the airport they are likely to see cranes, heavy construction equipment, and lots of hard hats. Minneapolis and Memphis, Tenn., are adding a new runways. Detroit and Philadelphia have opened up new terminals. JFK in New York has major construction going on and Austin recently opened up a new airport.Skip to next paragraph
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"It seems like everything is under construction," says Brent Bowen of the University of Nebraska at Omaha.
Nowhere is this more apparent than Newark International, which is in the middle of a $3.8 billion improvement. There will be new roadways, garages, an international arrivals terminal, and an updated control tower.
What that means today is delays.
As Lt. Michael Toomey, a tour commander for the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, drives around the airport, he pulls his white Ford Crown Victoria onto an airplane taxiway. Once travelers get on their flights, he says, they may join a line of planes that will stretch for almost two miles waiting to take off. The process could take as much as an hour.
As he swings his car back on the roadway, he says the congestion on the highways leading into the airport is likely to be worse than the runways. Because of construction, many of the roads are down to one lane. A monorail system that normally takes passengers between terminals is sidelined for repairs, so there are now 60 extra buses clogging the roads.
Construction has taken more than 1,000 parking spaces adjacent to Continental Airlines, which carries 60 percent of the airport's passengers. "This will be like one of the rings of 'Dante's Inferno,' " says the 20-year veteran as he scans the airport grounds.
If passengers manage to drive up to the terminal - some may just park their cars on the grass and make a run for it - they will be greeted by a double tour of whistle-blowing police officers. Although they will allow loading and unloading, the police are under orders to move traffic - even if it means using a tow truck.
"We will hook 'em and book 'em all day long," growls Mr. Toomey. "Everyone thinks their problem is the most important problem."
Airport officials are not oblivious to the potential for airport chaos. Construction stopped on Monday. At least one roadway was widened for holiday traffic. Assistant general manager John Jacoby has told every form of media that the public should leave at least an extra half hour earlier than what airlines suggest.
"Why add to the anxiety by making a last-minute dash to the airport?" he asks.
And to try to help passengers once they get inside the terminal, the airport will add additional red jackets. One of those will be Ada Cuadro, who specializes in dispensing jokes and love. She recently came across a man who was tossing around his luggage because of a plane delay. "Don't you think it would be better if they fixed the plane here?" she asked him.
"They can't send someone up there," she said as he calmed down. "During times like this we try to use a lot of empathy," she says.
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society