Hartsfield-Jackson to begin heavy lifting of canopy construction

4:30 p.m Thursday, Sept. 28, 2017 Business
August 11, 2017 construction of a temporary sidewalk covering on the North Terminal as Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is preparing for the construction of massive canopies over the domestic terminal curbside pickup and drop-off areas. JOHN SPINK/JSPINK@AJC.COM

The first truss of steel will soon be lifted into the air to begin building massive curbside canopies at Hartsfield-Jackson International — and that means traffic congestion for travelers trying to navigate around the world’s busiest airport.

This Sunday, trusses will be moved from a staging area to the terminal curbside roads to start the heavy lifting of the project. Each truss will span about 195 feet to cover eight lanes of curbside roads, and will soar more than 73 feet above the roadway.

Channel 2's Steve Gehkbach reports.

The price tag for the canopies and other terminal improvements: $265 million, which is $102.5 million more than originally expected. As the idea for the canopies was being developed, plans became more complex, the scope grew and the cost skyrocketed.

The canopies will be made up of 38 trusses of steel rolled in Chicago, fabricated in Lubbock and assembled in Atlanta.

Stretching from the parking garages to the terminal on each side of the building, one aim of the canopies is to shelter people walking from the garages to the terminal on new pedestrian bridges intended to increase safety and reduce traffic congestion.

The translucent covering of the canopies will be similar to that used on the roof on the new Mercedes-Benz stadium: a plastic-like material known as ETFE, or ethylene tetrafluoroethylene.

The massive canopies will also be illuminated with 3,708 lights, creating what officials hope will be an iconic entrance for Hartsfield-Jackson.

“We will create a dramatic gateway to the world’s busiest airport,” said Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed at a press conference Thursday, adding that he thinks it will be “another architectural signature for the city of Atlanta.” The lights of the canopy will allow it to be lit with different colors, such as red for a Falcons win or pink for Breast Cancer Awareness month.

Reed acknowledged the traffic frustrations people are already experiencing due to airport construction.

“There’s an awful lot of people on Twitter with an awful lot of complaints,” he said. “I believe the finished product will be worth it.”

Some lanes have already been closed over the past year to prepare the curbside area for 38 concrete piers to be installed into the ground that will hold up the canopies. The closures cause vehicles to back up onto roads approaching the terminal during busy periods.

And it’s about to get worse.

Airport officials advise travelers to arrive at the airport an extra half hour before their flight. More lane closures will be coming. The work will go on for the next year and a half.

The airport tested out lane closures overnight Sunday and Monday as it prepares for increased traffic disruption starting this weekend.

“We know there will be some inconvenience,” said Hartsfield-Jackson general manager Roosevelt Council. “Every day, we’re meeting to see what we can do better.”

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