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New terminal construction moving forward

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

With 1.8 million cubic yards of fill dirt piled on the east side of Hartsfiled-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, and more than $1 billion designated by the Atlanta City Council, construction of a new terminal is moving forward.

Airport officials unveiled the schematic design and artist's rendering last week, showing a glittering glass terminal authorities hope will become the city's front gate to the world.

"The design itself is a very clean, modern design," said Mike Williams, of Hartsfiled-Jackson's building and planning department. "It's really going to be all about the passengers. The focus has been on making it a very efficient, enjoyable place for the passengers to spend time, as they wait to take their flights."

The design for the new, international terminal was redone after the first one came in with a construction price tag significantly higher than requested.

The 1.2 million-square-foot building, as currently envisioned, will have 12 additional international gates and will bear the name "Maynard Holbrook Jackson, Jr., International Terminal."

Located near the control tower, the terminal will offer travelers a view of the Atlanta sky line and will, authorities say, handle the projected increase in international travelers.

With both of the airport's major airlines -- Delta Air Lines and AirTran Airways -- expanding flights to international destinations as part of their business strategies, the airport's load of 9 million international travelers last year is expected to balloon to 17 million by 2015.

With the design complete, the fill dirt dumped and the funding in place, Williams said the airport will be reviewing bids to build the terminal foundation by the end of March.

"We're pretty much tracking along where we want to be," he said. "The facility is targeted to be complete in November 2011... We expect meaningful construction to be underway by June."

Currently, construction has already begun on the train tunnel, more than 50 feet underground, stretching east toward the soon to-be-built terminal.

The tunnel has to be dug from the depot -- below Concourse E, under a taxi-way and then under the new terminal -- as it's under construction.

Williams said the complexity of constructing the tunnel is an example of the significant challenges faced in turning those schematics into a functional, soaring structure of glass and steel.

The designers are also working and re-working the finer details of the schematics, "fine-tuning exterior and interior details," Williams said.

"It's going to be a really very flexible facility," he said. "It's one of the things the design team always focuses on, making it really flexible. The life-cycle on these buildings is a long time, so you really want something that will last."