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Traveler James Corne said at Chattanooga Metropolitan Airport on Wednesday that he doesn't know a lot about Real ID, but the national security measure seems like it makes sense if it helps keep fliers safe.

"The safer, the better," said the Decatur, Tennessee, man as he picked up a rental car at Lovell Field.

On July 1, Tennessee plans to start issuing Real ID driver's licenses.

The so-called "gold star" IDs will replace existing driver's licenses as identification for boarding commercial airplanes across the country as of Oct. 1, 2020. Also, the enhanced driver's license will be used for people to access U.S. military bases and certain federal buildings such as nuclear power plants.

Jeff Long, commissioner of the Tennessee Department of Safety and Homeland Security, said Real ID is the standard set by Congress in 2005 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"This will help protect our homeland and make us all more safe and secure," he said at the airport.

Long added that not everyone has to get a Real ID gold star license, but they'll be a standard for air travelers and people accessing the federal facilities. The state has about 4.6 million registered driver's licenses and IDs.

Congress passed the law in 2005 and the rollout was left up to the states.

Georgia started issuing Real IDs in July 2012. As a result, many Georgians already have the enhanced license.

In Tennessee, however, Long said he's expecting a crush of people seeking the new IDs before October 2020.

He expects crowds at the state's driver's license centers and approved county clerk offices after the July 1 kickoff. Also, more crowds are expected just before the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays this year and again prior to October 2020, the commissioner said.

"That's why we're starting a year early," Long said.

To obtain a license, people need to show up at a center or clerk's office in person and have certain documentation helping prove they are who they say.

Long said people can bring proof of residence and citizenship, and an existing driver's license would provide "most of that." But, he recommended bringing a birth certificate and a Social Security card, or something which has an individual's Social Security number on it.

He said people can find out more on the department's website at

Michael Hogan, director of the department's Driver Services Division, said the cost of a Real ID will depend on the transaction.

For example, if someone is initially getting a license or obtaining a new one at the standard renewal time, the cost is $28, he said. But, if someone is just getting a Real ID duplicate of an existing license for the first time, the cost is $8, Hogan said.

Eddie McGaha, the Transportation Security Administration's assistant federal security director for East Tennessee, said a Real ID generally is needed for air travelers to pass through an airport's checkpoint. Otherwise, a passport, a resident alien card, a Department of Defense ID or "a government-issued photo ID" is acceptable, he said.

McGaha said TSA checkpoint personnel will be ready come October 2020, and he's hopeful that the process won't slow fliers getting to their airline seats.

"We're getting the word out early," he said.

Lori Bullard, assistant commissioner of state safety and homeland security, said Tennessee is launching an awareness campaign about Real ID. It has partnered with former Tennessee Titans star running back Eddie George and his wife for commercial spots that are already on the air, she said.

Bullard added that a Real ID isn't needed to buy alcohol or cigarettes or to access federal benefits.

Contact Mike Pare at or 423-757-6318. Follow him on Twitter @MikePareTFP.