Construction progressing at Hartsfield-Jackson

By Billy Corriher

As Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport made progress on its new fifth runway and its planned international terminal this year, many Clayton County residents were annoyed with the side effects of the projects.

Construction of the new runway means crews are blasting rock and kicking up dirt around the homes of northern Clayton County residents.

Airport spokeswoman Wendi Pruett said construction crews try to avoid blasting, but sometimes it can not be avoided.

"When they hit rock, they have to blast," she said.

Residents of Cherry Hills have repeatedly accused the airport construction of causing damage to their homes and causing excessive noise.

Cherry Hill residents have also expressed concern about the noise that will result when the new runway is completed and in use.

Some residents have expressed an interest in a buyout from the airport, but the airport has not indicated it is willing to purchase the property.

The neighborhood, although parts of it are less than a mile away from the planned runway, is not eligible for federal noise abatement money, airport officials have told Cherry Hill residents.

Funding for noise abatement is determined by guidelines set by the Federal Aviation Administration, but Rep. David Scott, D-Atlanta, has requested that the FAA review the standards so that more residents and business close to the airport can receive funding.

The construction caused Sullivan Road, a popular route for county residents, to be closed for most of the year. Clayton County officials agreed to close it after getting some concessions from the Atlanta City Council. By the end of the year, the road was reopened to traffic.

Preutt said the runway is scheduled for completion in May of 2006 and the new international terminal is scheduled to be finished by October of 2006.

In January, the FAA plans to break ground on the new control tower for the fifth runway.

To allow for construction to proceed in January, the westbound lanes of Interstate 285 near the construction site will be shifted, she said. In March, the airport will shift the eastbound lanes where the westbound lanes formerly were.

In 2005, Pruett said the airport will shift the lanes back.

Besides the construction at the airport, the name of the facility also ranked as one of the top stories for 2003.

After former Atlanta Maynard Jackson died, the Atlanta City Council looked for a way to honor him.

Rather than change the entire name, one proposal was to name the international terminal after him. Jackson's widow initially supported the plan.

After some council members paid her a visit, she endorsed a plan to add her late husband's name to the airport. The city council backed a plan by Mayor Shirley Franklin to do this and it passed. Some members of the Hartsfield family said they were not pleased to have their relative share the name. Hartsfield was a long-time council member and former mayor who was instrumental in finding the airport property and pushing its growth. Jackson supporters said while he was mayor he also pushed the airport forward to its national ranking.