- Kelly Yamanouchi The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
As Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport airport steps up construction of massive canopies outside the terminal, more vehicle traffic will be squeezed into less space at the world’s busiest airport.
Starting Sunday, the airport will begin “substantial canopy construction” on the Terminal North roads, which will disrupt traffic every night from around 9 or 10 p.m. until 4:30 or 5 a.m.. During this next phase of construction, the entire Terminal North upper roadway may be closed during overnight periods.
The airport recommends that during this construction, travelers allow an extra half hour to get through the airport.
Hartsfield-Jackson now advises domestic travelers get to the airport 2½ hours before their departure time, and for international travelers to arrive 3 hours before their flight.
Every domestic airline at Hartsfield-Jackson other than Delta Air Lines operates out of Terminal North, while Delta operates out of Terminal South. The airport started canopy construction at Terminal North last fall a few weeks before it launched construction of the canopy over Terminal South. Work on the canopies is expected to continue until early 2019, a high-profile project in Hartsfield-Jackson’s $6 billion plan to expand and modernize the airport.
The massive canopies will cover the curbside areas on both sides of the domestic terminal, spanning from the terminal to the parking garages. Airport officials say the canopies will protect pedestrians from the elements and create a “dramatic entrance to the airport.” Pedestrian bridges underneath the canopies will make it safer for those walking from the parking decks and reduce traffic congestion.
During the next phase of construction, vehicles will not be allowed to wait at the curbside for passengers, with traffic enforcement officers enforcing the rule allowing only “active loading and unloading,” according to the airport.
“We expect there may be challenges in the first few days of these closures,” said Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Andrew Gobeil. “But we will collect data and address any of these challenges and make sure they’re reconciled.”
Travelers who would normally use Terminal North roads “should seek alternate options,” according to the airport, which recommends those passengers take MARTA to the airport or considering being picked up or dropped off at the international terminal.
While some travelers may opt to be dropped off at the domestic Terminal South curbside, a large share of traffic migrating from Terminal North to Terminal South could cause congestion and frustration for those travelers at Terminal South.
“The suggested alternatives that we have come up with we feel will mitigate the traffic issues due to the closures,” Gobeil said. “We have studied traffic mitigation plans for months leading up to this… We’re a fully functional airport and we don’t want to impede operations.”
The international terminal is less crowded, but has check-in counters for international flights and not all carriers have check-in counters there. There is a terminal-to-terminal shuttle that carries passengers between the international terminal and the domestic terminal.