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Airport name change official

By Ed Brock

While waiting for a connecting flight Friday evening, Army Pvt. Dwayne Smith was unaware that the airport in which he sat had a new name.

"As far as I knew it's Atlanta International Airport," said Smith who was on his way from Fort Benning to San Antonio, Texas for training.

Sitting nearby, Charlotte Oliver of Clarksville, Tenn., said she knew the name Hartsfield was attached to the airport.

"Only because somebody told me this morning," Oliver said.

Oliver had driven to what is now Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport to pick up her husband, Army Sgt. Christopher Oliver, who was on his way home from Iraq. More concerned about the delay of her husband's military flight, Oliver simply shrugged when told the new name.

"What difference does it make?" Oliver said.

After months of debate, the Atlanta City Council approved the name change on Oct. 20. It is a compromise intended to honor both former Atlanta Mayor William B. Hartsfield, the man who started the airport, and former Mayor Maynard Jackson who died over the summer and who has been credited with modernizing the airport and making it the international nexus it is today.

Some supporters of Jackson had argued that the airport should be named after Jackson alone, but Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin advanced the hyphenated name that has become reality. The planned International Terminal will be named after Jackson while the domestic terminal will be named after Hartsfield.

Technically, the name change becomes official on Jan. 1, airport spokeswoman Lanii Thomas said.

"But we are trying to change as many things as we can," Thomas said. "The name is out there and people are using it."

That started with changing the name on the airport's Web site. Stationary with letterhead and some employee's business cards will be changed after the current stock is depleted and new supplies are ordered with the new name.

There are also about eight signs on the airport grounds that need to be changed by January, along with some directories and other things. Currently airport officials haven't come up with a price tag for the change, Thomas said.

"There are a lot of things we didn't realize had to be changed that we are now changing," Thomas said.

They should have a cost estimate by January, Thomas said, and there will be a ceremony of some kind to mark the transition.

Meanwhile other changes are also under way or soon to begin at the airport.

Work on realigning and expanding Sullivan Road, which is being done in conjunction with the construction of the new fifth runway, is going well, Clayton County Transportation and Development Director Wayne Patterson said.

"As a matter of fact they're ahead of schedule on the two-lane part," Patterson said on Friday. "They're actually putting the asphalt on it today and we're going to open it on Nov. 24 (depending on a review of the striping and signage plan submitted for the road)."

The project is being financed by the city of Atlanta, Patterson said, and by summer 2004 the road should be expanded to four lanes, something the county had planned to do anyway.

Sullivan Road previously ran northwest from Ga. Highway 85, across Interstate 285, and connected to Riverdale Road north of the interstate. In order to make room for the new runway the road was rerouted to the south side of I-285 and it will now connect to Riverdale Road across from Phoenix Boulevard.

Riverdale Road has also been rerouted.

The construction work has had little impact on airport employees who commute on those roads, Thomas said.

"We got the word out ahead of time so the alternate routes that were identified have been used," Thomas said.

Also, airport officials decided last week to delay until after the busy holiday travel season the construction of luggage screening rooms underneath the airport that will contain bomb-detecting systems. When work on the $215 million project begins several airport operations, such as passenger check in, will be relocated and some entrances will be closed.