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Crane moves people-mover cars to track at airport

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

There was no sound.

The 150-foot boom crane moved, straps tightened and the 37,260-pound, $3 million train car shifted and lifted silently off the ground.

The car, made by Mitsubishi, was resting on blocks at the sandy bottom of the construction site, about a mile and a half from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport. And then, without a sign, it was hoisted up.

The movement, early Saturday morning, was disguised by fog. The scene looked like it was shot in the style of a 1950s, black-and-white detective picture, what the critics call "noir," but the shroud was busted up by the bright blue straps, wrapped around the train car, and the fluorescent vests on all the construction workers.

The workers scurried around underneath the car, wearing reflective orange and yellow and matching hardhats. First, they secured it, then checking, then double checking, and finally falling back to watch it go. A couple of them took personal snap shots as the first 1.5-ton train car was raised from the ground, 50 feet in the air, and set up on the concrete guideway.

It was the first of 12 cars raised up to the guideway. Albert Snedeker, airport spokesman, said the cars will be joined in married pairs, when the whole thing is operational in early 2009.

The Automated People Mover will run the electric cars from the edge of the airport terminal to the Georgia International Convention Center, with the new, first-class hotels going up there, and then on to the Consolidated Rental Car Facility (CONRAC), on a one-and-a-half-mile, electric powered loop.

Part of the "capital gains" project," the people mover is estimated to cost $170.5 million.

Making 10-minute round trips on the "dual lane elevated guideway," the cars will be able to carry 2,700 people per hour, per day. Each $3 million car can carry 51 people and luggage, in a single trip.

Robert Kennedy, the assistant general manager of operations, said the riders will have "spectacular views of the airport, and the skyline, and College Park and the areas around here."

For now, though, the cars are just being calibrated and tested on the track.

The train-control people are orchestrating the timing, testing the train-logic systems, and checking the computerized monitors that automatically moves people.

The system's scheduled to be operational in 2009. On Saturday, the hard-hat-wearing construction workers circled around the boom crane, running straps to two cars, and then two more, hoisting them up to the track.