SF airport receives first installment of stimulus package money

Published 12 June 2009

The stimulus package added $3 billion to the DHS budget; of that, about $1 billion will go toward bolstering airport security; San Francisco International receives first $15 million

San Francisco International Airport received the first installment of federal stimulus money aimed at airport safety yesterday when DHS Janet Napolitano flew into town to announce that $15 million will go to build a new baggage system with advanced explosive-detection abilities. “It means a more secure, more efficient, high-tech way to screen baggage before it’s put in the cargo hold of an airplane,” said Napolitano, before handing an oversize check to SFO Director John Martin. “These funds will help them accelerate the plans they had under way.” San Francisco Chronicle’s Tyche Hendricks writes that the money is part of $1 billion in stimulus funds targeted for aviation-security projects.

It is fitting that SFO should be first, said California aviation-security expert Thomas Anthony, because the city’s airport has long been at the forefront in developing equipment that can detect explosives, collaborating in the 1990s with a Silicon Valley company, Invision, on the first generation of such equipment. “Since the very earliest days, they allowed this technology company, with approval of the FAA, to do testing there. It was the proving ground for explosive-detection systems,” said Anthony, who directs the Aviation Safety and Security Program at the University of Southern California. “San Francisco has invested a terrific amount. They’re really a leader.”

The airport already screens bags at the terminals with similar technology, but the new federal money will pay for the more advanced system in Terminal 2, which is being renovated and is due to reopen in late 2010. This support is all the more important in view of the difficult economic times,” said Martin.

The funding is expected to produce 40 temporary jobs — among 200 overall that are being created by the $383 million Terminal 2 overhaul — according to airport spokesman Michael McCarron.

U.S. Rep. Laura Richardson (D-Long Beach), who sits on the House Homeland Security Committee, said she was pleased that Napolitano is giving the Golden State plenty of attention: “The fact that she’s actually been here four times already, that’s highly unusual.”