PORTLAND (AP) – Passengers flying out of the Portland International Jetport may find lines this summer rivaling what they saw last Thanksgiving.

Jetport Manager Jeff Schultes said he’s concerned about the impact of a proposal to cut passenger screeners at the jetport by nearly a third.

“Going into our busiest season we could easily be going back to 45 minute lines, and I don’t think that is what the traveling public wants to hear,” said Schultes.

Last Thanksgiving, some passengers had to wait as long as two hours to move through security.

The cuts at Portland are part of a systemwide reduction of personnel from the Transportation Safety Administration, the new federal agency created last year to take over airport security after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

The cuts are needed because the agency hired more than the number of people authorized under federal law in order to meet deadlines for federalizing passenger screening and introducing baggage screening, said its spokesman, Mark Hatfield.

Now that the system has been set up, the TSA must cut back in compliance with the federal law, Hatfield said.

Meanwhile, a task force developed a formula to decide the best way to deploy the nation’s 46,000 screeners, and some airports will take a harder hit than others.

In Portland, the number of screeners would be reduced from 101 to 71, while Manchester, N.H. is to lose 84 of its 200 screeners. Boston’s Logan airport, which has 1,047 screeners, would lose only 50.

At the same time, 151 airports around the country, including Bangor International, would gain screeners. Bangor would go from 65 to 71 screeners, the same number as Portland even though it has one-third the number of flights.

U.S. Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who chairs the committee that oversees the Homeland Security Department and TSA, wrote a letter to Under Secretary for Border and Transportation Security Asa Hutchinson, questioning the level of proposed cuts for Portland.

AP-ES-05-09-03 0215EDT


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