By Billy Corriher
Part of Sullivan Road, which was closed to allow for construction of the fifth runway at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport will reopen next Tuesday, a week ahead of schedule.
Ben DeCosta, airport aviation manager, told the Clayton County Commission Tuesday that the full four lanes are expected to be open before the scheduled date of June, barring any setbacks. DeCosta made his announcement as part of a briefing to the commission on the fifth runway now under construction.
Sullivan Road was re-aligned and now will connect to Riverdale Road south of I-285 across from Phoenix Boulevard instead of north of I-285, a shift of about half a mile.
The portion of Sullivan Road from Southridge Park to Riverdale Road was closed this spring to keep the runway project on schedule. Since a large portion of the road lies in the path of the new runway, travelers have been detouring on Clark Howell Highway and Airport Loop Road.
Wayne Patterson, director of Clayton County transportation and development, said the county accommodated the additional traffic on the detour route by redesigning the road's intersections with Derrick Jones Road and Clark Howell Highway.
Patterson said the detour route has seen some increased congestion during rush hour, but the impact has been minimal.
"Our department has not had any complaints from drivers," he said.
Harold Hagans, president of Atlanta Customs Brokers off Sullivan Road, said the road closing has not caused any major inconveniences.
Hagans said that since many businesses on the road deal with transportation, the expansion of the airport would be good for business.
Patterson said the main reason the traffic impact was minimal was the county's extensive public information campaign. Once people knew about the changes, they could work around them and traffic was not impeded that much, he said.
In addition to the effects on traffic, Commissioner Virginia Gray also asked for information from the airport about the environmental impacts of the fifth runway construction.
Gray said she worries about the effects of the construction on area residents, some of whom she said probably can't go outside because of the dust. Gray said she wants to know if something could be done to reduce the amount of dust blown up.
The commissioners also discussed ongoing efforts by U.S. Rep. David Scott to work with the Federal Aviation Administration to minimize the impacts of airport noise on area residents.