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Hartsfield gets $45.8 millon for security

By Trina Trice

Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport can expect more security enhancements thanks to a grant from the U.S. Department of Transportation.

Secretary of Transportation Norman Mineta presented a check for $45.8 million to Ben DeCosta, general manager of Hartsfield Atlanta International Airport, at a press conference Thursday in the airport atrium.

"This is truly a great day for Hartsfield and a great day for its passengers," Decosta said.

The largest portion of the grant will be used toward the purchase and installation of Explosive Detection System machines and security parameter fencing. The money will also go toward the purchase of fire-fighting equipment and aircraft rescue. Close to $2 million has been earmarked for aircraft noise reduction.

"Currently, commercial aviation is undergoing significant transition and modifications to ensure the safety of and security of the traveling public," DeCosta said. "We are grateful to Mineta and the Department of Transportation for providing Hartsfield with federal funding and support to help cover these necessary upgrades."

Hartsfield's security enhancements will not only benefit the airport and Georgia, but entire country, Mineta said.

"Transportation is the bedrock of our economy," he said. "It's very vital to our economic health and quality of life."

Also appearing Thursday were William Clyburn, senior counsel to U.S. Sen. Zell Miller; U.S. Reps. David Scott, Johnny Isakson, and John Lewis; and state Gov. Sonny Perdue.

"This $45 million grant will go a long way," Scott said. "It'll not only make sure the airport is safe and secure, but it will help move (passengers) forward along the way."

Mineta was in Savannah Wednesday for a tour of the

Port of Savannah and promised more federal funding to guard U.S. seaports against terrorism is on the way.

Over the last five years, Hartsfield has received $155 million worth of grants from the U.S. Department of Transportation. That money has been used to build the fifth runway, currently under construction, and security equipment already in use.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.