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Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune
Travelers wait in line to make it through TSA inspection before boarding their planes at the Medford airport Thursday morning.

Growing pains, and lines, at the Medford airport

It’s no illusion — Medford’s airport traffic continues to soar.

Jerry Brienza, director of the Rogue Valley International-Medford Airport, said the facility is still experiencing unprecedented growth in its flow of passengers, sparking interest from airlines to add routes and bring in bigger planes.

And, yes, it will mean longer lines, Brienza said.

“While we understand longer lines may frustrate some travelers, of the many pains a community can have, growing pains are one of the better ones,” he wrote in an email to the Mail Tribune Wednesday. He has been airport director since November 2017.

In the past four years, the number of passengers traveling through the Medford airport has increased 55 percent, Brienza said, and the number of airline seats available this summer is 24 percent higher than the last. If that pace of growth continues, Brienza said, more than 1 million passengers will have traveled through the airport terminal by the end of the year.

Some short-term plans are in the works to alleviate the length of lines before any major changes are likely to happen. One suggestion the airport is offering is registering for Precheck with the Transportation Security Administration. Precheck allows passengers to travel through separate — and usually shorter — security lines without needing to remove their shoes, belts or light jackets. Laptops and small liquid containers are also allowed to remain in bags.

TSA’s website says that in May 2018, 92 percent of Precheck passengers waited less than five minutes to get through security. It costs $85 for a five-year membership, and the application process includes a 10-minute in-person appointment, a background check and fingerprinting. TSA officials will conduct interviews when they visit the Medford airport from July 28 through Aug. 3.

Medford does not have a Precheck Enrollment Center. The closest centers are in Roseburg, North Bend and Eureka, California. For more information, see https://universalenroll.dhs.gov.

Meanwhile, the advice to arrive at the airport two hours before your scheduled boarding time remains, perhaps with more incentive than ever.

In the longer term, Brienza said, the airport plans to take “a serious look” at terminal expansion. A master plan study is scheduled for 2019, but he also said the airport is looking into doing a terminal capacity study to “identify any capacity issues that we have and put us in a better position for grant funding.”

A $35 million terminal expansion was completed in 2009.

Brienza thanked the Rogue Valley for contributing to the airport’s growth.

“The community has my personal commitment to make MFR the premier air transportation facility they deserve,” he said.

Reach Mail Tribune reporter Kaylee Tornay at ktornay@rosebudmedia.com or 541-776-4497. Follow her on Twitter @ka_tornay.

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