By Ed Brock
Construction on a new baggage screening facility at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport hardly put a crimp in Viola Walden's travel plans.
On Monday Walden was on her way back to Monroeville, Penn. after a visit with her daughter in Lawrenceville. Along with the other passengers and the people bringing them to the airport, Walden and her daughter were diverted from the usual passenger drop off area at the North Terminal and into a section of the parking garage there to avoid the construction site.
"It was easy getting here," Walden said, adding that the many airport employees in the drop off section were very helpful in getting them to the right place. "I think it's going to be something that will be good."
The only problem was that the new route made it difficult for her daughter to run in to take care of some pre-flight business, Walden said.
Construction on the Transportation Security Administration's "in-line baggage screening facilities," officially known as the TSA Baggage Screening Project, for the airport's north terminal began on Friday. On Wednesday the work will begin at the airport's busier South Terminal where Delta Air Line passengers check in.
"The major difference (in the work in the South Terminal) is that people will be allowed to get tickets inside the drop off area," said Hartsfield-Jackson spokeswoman Lanii Thomas. "It's going extremely well, as well as we could have hoped for in this first phase."
The $215 million federally mandated project is intended to make the baggage check in process more efficient. The two screening facilities are being built underneath the seven roadway lanes that run alongside each terminal and the canopied island in the middle of them.
During Phase 1 of the project the three outer lanes are to be merged and sent into a "Kiss ?N Fly" drop off area inside the hourly parking garage building. Taxis, limousines, buses and other commercial vehicles that usually use the outer lanes will now use the inner lanes.
In Phase II portions of the four inner lanes will be closed and the capacity that is lost will be made up for in the drop-off areas. Also, the lower level roadway traffic lanes will be reduced from three lanes to two through lanes near the construction site.
The facility for the North Terminal is expected to be around 67,000 feet while the South Terminal facility is expected to be around 54,000 square feet. Both projects are expected to be completed within 12 to 15 months of their starting dates.
"Hartsfield-Jackson currently averages nearly 50,000 departing travelers every Monday," said airport General Manager Ben DeCosta in a statement. "Relocating TSA's large electronic screening devices from the airport's lobby areas will allow us to safely accommodate more travelers within the main terminal building while reducing congestion as demand for air travel continues to rise."
The project will mostly impact regular air travelers who are used to a certain routine, Thomas said, but the airport is doing all it can to make the construction time easier.
She strongly urged passengers to watch the video available at the Hartsfield-Jackson Web site, www.atlanta-airport.com, to get a full description of the changes incurred by the construction. To view the video double click on the "Things to Know As We Grow" section.