Airport construction ahead of schedule

By Greg Gelpi

Although work on the nearly $215 million Transportation Security Administration baggage screening facility has forced changes in pickups, drop-offs and traffic around the terminals, Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin and officials at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport announced Friday that work is ahead of schedule.

Assistant General Manager of Planning and Development Dan Molloy said the construction project should be completed by the end of the year and on schedule, and the portion of the project that affects passenger pick-up and drop-off should be completed before that. At this point, that portion of the project is a month ahead of schedule and should be opened before the rush of summer vacationers.

Crews ripped open roadways between both the North and South terminals and their corresponding parking garages, as they installed the 121,000-square foot screening facilities in the large holes.

"The project is going extremely well," Molloy said.

The facilities will replace the "bulky" machines inside the terminals that screen baggage and prevent banned items from getting on planes, Molloy said. The equipment inside the terminals "cause disruption and take up valuable space."

The new facilities will "rectify" the situation inside the terminals and "return the airport to pre-9/11 conditions," he said.

In addition, the baggage screening facilities will be "substantially improving the process," Molloy said, by improving curbside operations, increasing traffic flow and clearing space inside the terminals.

Amidst the rerouting of traffic to accommodate the construction, Molloy said airport officials have "focused very seriously" on customer service, and airport Customer Service Manager Karen Ellis said that comments from customers have been "minimal."

"Customer service is one of the highest priorities of Hartsfield-Jackson," Ellis said.

Among the airport's efforts to handle congestion and confusion incurred by the construction, the airport hired about 65 greeters to guide passengers and assist in navigating around the project and through the airport, she said.

The airport safety project is on the "top of our list" of priorities, Franklin said.

"We are very very proud of our progress," she said.

The facilities are being funded through airport revenue, the TSA and the Federal Aviation Administation with no Atlanta or state tax dollars, Franklin said.

Last year, more than 83 million passengers passed through Hartsfield-Jackson and Molloy projects 88 million will pass through this year "easily" making it the world's busiest airport.