Work starts on Atlanta airport’s curbside canopies

Lane shifts planned for approach roads.

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport has begun prep work for construction of massive canopies over the domestic terminal curbside pickup and drop-off areas — one of the first and most visible elements of a $6 billion, 20-year expansion plan.

The airport is warning travelers about lane closures around the domestic terminal as the project gets started in earnest. Initially the closures are in the outer curbside area, altering the flow of some shuttle traffic. Some lower level lanes also are affected.

Lane closures at north terminal started Oct. 9, and will start Oct. 30 at the south terminal.

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, airport officials said.

“We are expecting minimal impact on our passengers to pull up to the curbside,” interim general manager Roosevelt Council said.

The roadwork will continue for months, and it will take two years to build the transparent steel-framed canopies that will span the curbside areas on both sides of the terminal. Each canopy 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,” Council said.

While predicting little effect on non-shuttle traffic at this point, airport officials warn travelers to allow extra time when heading to the airport, follow signs and be aware that traffic flows will change in coming weeks and months.

The canopies will cost around $125 million to build, according to Frank Rucker, Hartsfield-Jackson’s assistant general manager for planning and development.

The airport will have to relocate some utility infrastructure and build piers deep into the ground to support the steel frame. The canopy work also affects future work on parking garages, including plans for a pedestrian bridge from the garages to the terminal.

The airport recently disclosed that it planned to increase the value under an existing terminal construction contract by $155 million for the relocation of infrastructure for the canopy frame and foundations, to add work on the pedestrian bridges, and for other work.

The airport’s $6 billion capital improvement plan, which it calls ATL Next, 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.

“We’re building a better airport,” Council said. With the complexity of work planned, “it will be quite a challenge.”

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