Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is starting work this week to prepare for the construction of massive canopies over the domestic terminal curbside pickup and drop-off areas -- a high-profile project in the airport's $6 billion expansion.
The airport is also warning travelers that the project is causing some lane closures around the domestic terminal. Some lanes in the outer curbside area are closing for the foundation work, altering the flow of some of shuttle traffic around the domestic terminal. Lane closures at Terminal North started Oct. 9, while lane closures at Terminal South start Oct 30.
The roadwork will continue for months, and it will take a total of two years to build transparent steel-framed canopies as a prominent addition at the world's busiest airport. Erection of the structures expected to start next year. Each canopy on the Terminal North and Terminal South curbsides will be 55 feet high and 865 feet long.
"What the canopy represents is our opportunity to protect all our passengers from the elements, but it also provides a very dramatic entrance to the airport," said Hartsfield-Jackson interim general manager Roosevelt Council.
Starting this month, some lanes will close in the shuttle and commercial vehicle pick-up and drop-off areas on the outer lanes of the Terminal North and Terminal South curbsides, as well as some lower level lanes. Other lanes will remain open to allow traffic to flow through.
The path to the parking garages will not change, and individual drivers who pick up and drop off passengers at the inner curbside of the main level will not be affected by the lane closures, airport officials said.
"We are expecting minimal impact on our passengers to pull up to the curbside," Council said.
Airport officials still warn travelers to allow extra time when heading to the airport, follow signs and be aware that traffic flows will change in the coming weeks and months.
The canopies will cost around $125 million to construct, according to Hartsfield-Jackson's assistant general manager for planning and development Frank Rucker.
To build the canopies, the airport will have to relocate some utility infrastructure and build piers deep into the ground to support the steel frame.
The airport master plan also includes plans to renovate the terminal and concourses, demolish and reconstruct the parking decks, expand Concourse T, build Concourse G and eventually a sixth runway.
All of the work also must be done while traffic continues to flow in and out of the world's busiest airport -- and there will be frustrations for travelers as work continues.