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State employees to bolster BWI airport security

State security personnel will be allowed to check bags under the Maryland-FAA deal.  

BALTIMORE, Maryland (CNN) -- State security personnel soon will patrol the Baltimore-Washington International Airport in an effort to ease long lines at security checkpoints, Maryland state officials announced Saturday.

Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend struck the deal Saturday with FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, responding to what Townsend termed "unacceptable" delays.

The airlines at the airport -- including Southwest Airlines, the largest air carrier at BWI Airport -- will increase the size of their security staffs, Townsend said. Southwesthas agreed to add more security personnel in the hope that other airlines follow suit, Townsend said.

Current FAA regulations give responsibility for security to airlines and their agents.

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The Senate version of an airlines security bill, prompted by the September 11 terrorist attacks, would make all U.S. airport security personnel federal employees. The House version -- supported by President Bush -- would give the White House discretion as to whether security staffs will be government or private workers.

In time, specially trained state security employees -- possibly including state police or transit police officers -- will be able to assist airline security contractors at security checkpoints. The airlines will pay such personnel when they help check passengers' luggage and verify their identification when lines get too long, Townsend said

"I want to underscore: The airlines are first responsible for maintaining the security checkpoints," Townsend said.

FAA spokesman Fraser Jones would not confirm a deal had been reached, but noted that the agency "is working with airlines and local governments to make it a better travel experience for air passengers."

State security employees may be trained for their new roles and working at BWI by next weekend, according to Townsend.

In addition to increased personnel, the airport also will add new security equipment and additional security lanes to curb delays, said Alan Fleischmann, Townsend's chief of staff.


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