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Chertoff to inspect safety upgrades at LAX today

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff this afternoon is scheduled to inspect new improvements to security systems and customs facilities at Los Angeles International Airport, which has been listed as one of the top terrorist targets in the United States.

The tour will include the recent installation of security barriers at Terminal 1 -- a measure designed to prevent terrorists from crashing vehicles into the building.

The horseshoe-shaped streets that provide public access to the airport's terminals have been identified as the most vulnerable parts of LAX. Additional barriers are set to be added this fall at other strategic locations near terminals.

During his visit, Chertoff will meet with a host of dignitaries and local officials, including Rep. Jane Harman, (D-Venice), Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa, airport Executive Director Gina Marie Lindsey, and airport commission President Alan Rothenberg.

Chertoff will inspect the airport's perimeter fence, which was built with a sturdy concrete base, tighter and stronger steel mesh, and barbed wire along the top.

He also will visit a vehicle checkpoint where security officers are assisted by computer, and is to discuss plans to equip all gates to the airfield with hydraulic barriers.

At the Tom Bradley International Terminal, Chertoff is scheduled to view improvements to the customs arrival hall for international travelers -- one of the busiest in the nation. The facility has been enhanced with better lighting, more ventilation, baggage carousels to accommodate large aircraft and a revamped computer system to better process passengers.

Harman and airport officials said they are planning to ask Chertoff for more customs officials to help reduce long waits for travelers, who can experience waits of an hour or more during peak arrival times.

dan.weikel@latimes.com

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