Random vehicle inspections beginning Sunday at Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport will close roads to passengers, airline employees and others trying to get to terminals, officials said Friday.
Phoenix police will set up inspection stations on the east and west sides of the airport to check cars 24 hours a day, closing two major exits leading to the airport. The inspections are indefinite, authorities said.
“We're really trying to make it so people won't be delayed much at all,” said Deborah Ostreicher, airport spokeswoman. “Our concern is that people are going to want to stop and look because there will often be police cars at those areas. We really want to encourage people to proceed with caution, but to keep moving. The federal government has asked us to do this, and we're doing it, but we really don't want to compromise customer service.”
The nation's increased terror alert to high-risk "code orange" prompted the federal Transportation Security Administration to require random inspections at all the airport's entryways.
The northbound exit from state Route 153, also known as Sky Harbor Expressway, to the airport will be closed indefinitely. The exit ramp from Priest Drive to Sky Harbor also will be closed.
Westbound lanes on Loop 202 and Sky Harbor Boulevard will be restricted. Southbound 44th Street will be restricted south of Washington Street, as will eastbound Sky Harbor Boulevard lanes leading to terminals 2, 3, and 4.
In some cases, motorists will have to abandon their normal route to the airport and find another way by following overhead freeway and mobile signs, Ostreicher said.
“What they're trying to do is make there be as few check areas as possible because there's so many different access roads into the airport,” she said. “Police aren't giving out exact details on anything about how the random system and checkpoints will work, but they just want everybody to slow down and know they may be diverted.”
Sky Harbor Boulevard, which runs past the airport's three major terminals, will be narrowed from three to two lanes in some places, but the restrictions will take place far from terminals, Ostreicher said. Some vehicles could be searched twice because all cars entering garages at Terminals 3 and 4 are subject to inspection.
Drivers should be prepared to reduce their speed as they enter the airport, authorities said. The speed limit will be 25 mph approaching inspection stations.