Hartsfield-Jackson to redirect pedestrians at terminal

Sometimes, driving to the Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is the easy part. The real challenge comes when pedestrians try to cross the busy roadway between the parking garage and the terminal, avoiding the cars that emerge from the curbside tangle.

Drivers dropping or picking up passengers also face added stress as they wait for a break in the parade of walkers between the garage and the terminal.

Now Hartsfield-Jackson managers plan a fix: Redirecting pedestrians to the lower-level terminal doors, leaving the main-level roadways to cars and shuttle vans. The change is still in early design stages and it’s unclear when it would take effect.

It’s “a project we’ve been considering since the Olympics,” said Jim Drinkard, assistant general manager of planning and development at the airport. Total cost: an estimated $28 to $30 million, he said.

Airport managers originally considered bridges -- used at some other airports -- to lift pedestrians over the roadwway. They deemed that too expensive.

The current plan is to direct people headed in or out of parking decks down to the lower terminal level, where they can cross a less-congested road and then go back up to the main terminal or to their parking level.

While that’s possible now, Drinkard said “our project will force you to do it.”

The project could involve new walls and other structures, along with more elevators and escalators, he said.

Hartsfield-Jackson is requesting city council approval to spend $2.3 million for design and construction administration, funded by passenger facility charges.

The project is expected to improve safety and ease the congestion by separating pedestrians from car traffic, Drinkard said.

“That will give the road back to our vehicles,” he said.

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