Atlanta's Hartsfield Int'l Airport Update......

Old Nov 6, 00, 8:11 am
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Atlanta's Hartsfield Int'l Airport Update......

HARTSFIELD CITY LIMITS: Site chosen for new east terminal
Trip saver: International passengers won't have to journey 1 1/4 miles to main baggage claim.
Gary Hendricks - Staff
Monday, November 6, 2000

Long-suffering international air travelers can now see an end in sight to that mile-and-a-quarter trek they must make across Hartsfield to get their bags.

Hartsfield officials have finally decided where to build a new international terminal on the east side of the airport next to Concourse E, where overseas flights arrive and depart. It is designed to end the long journey to the main terminal.

The 1.5 million-square-foot-terminal will cost an estimated $719 million, including additional parking, adding a taxiway and providing access by extending Aviation Boulevard.

That's good news for Clayton County economic boosters. They see the new terminal, which could be finished as early as 2004, as a catalyst for attracting hotels and offices that will redevelop the northern end of the county.

"It's been a long time in coming," Clayton economics development officer Emory Brock said. "We first proposed an east side terminal in '90-'91."

The international terminal is part of a 10-year, $5.4 billion expansion of Hartsfield. Planners project that the airport, the world's busiest, will see international passengers double to 10 million in the next 10 years, with 50 million more domestic passengers using the airport in about 15 years.

Hartsfield became the world's busiest airport in 1999, attracting 78 million passengers, of which nearly 5 million were international.

Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta pitched the expansion plan last week to the Atlanta City Council's transportation committee, which will decide whether to endorse his management plan for the massive upgrade of the airport.

"The program needs to be put in place as fast as possible," DeCosta said. The airport's average flight delay is 9 minutes, which means some passengers can expect up to an hour of sitting during the longest delays.

Concourse E was built in 1994 and is currently being expanded by four new gates that will open next spring. The concourse will have a total of 28 gates after the additions.

Arriving international passengers must claim their luggage on Concourse E, go through U.S. Customs inspection and recheck bags to be shipped via conveyor belt to baggage claim in the main terminal. The alternative is for passengers to carry their bags on the underground people mover six stops to the main terminal.

Clayton economic boosters believe that international travelers will occupy nearby hotels they hope to build in the Mountain View Redevelopment Area.

A similar hotel market was created in College Park in the 1980s after the present terminal was built.

"It'll bring hotels and offices, just like it did in College Park," Brock said.

Mountain View was a residential community that was abandoned by homeowners when the airport expanded and noise made the area uninhabitable.

Fifth runway update

Since the mid-1980s, airline and airport officials have discussed a need for a fifth runway at Hartsfield. Early next year, site preparations will start, laying the foundation for construction on the new runway to finally begin.

A construction schedule beginning in the first quarter of next year and running through May 2005 was presented to the City Council's transportation committee last week by DeCosta.

Six years ago, the airport won approval to build a 6,000-foot landing runway for commuter airplanes. However, Hartsfield's traffic has grown so rapidly that airport officials decided a full-service, 9,000-foot runway was required.

The runway is estimated to cost $869 million, including building a replacement air traffic control tower to oversee all five runways. The current tower is on the site of other improvements the airport wishes to make.

Beginning sometime in January, airport officials hope to start installing a drainage system and relocating utilities in preparation for the runway's site. A contract worth $100 million to bring in 27 million cubic yards of fill dirt --- enough to fill the Georgia Dome twice --- is expected to be awarded.

The project also calls for tunneling 16 lanes of I-285 under the runway, making Hartsfield the first airport to have an active runway crossing an interstate highway with that volume of traffic.

The general public is likely to become aware of the project around April, when the fill dirt begins to appear along I-285 near Riverdale Road. Also, a commercial area along Riverdale Road will be cleared.

The fifth runway is the most important element of the $5.4 billion expansion program, according to DeCosta.

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