Hartsfield-Jackson completes new taxiway to improve safety, efficiency

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is preparing to open a new “end-around” taxiway that has been years in the making, aimed at improving safety and efficiency by reducing runway crossings by airplanes.

The $81.8 million taxiway, which curves around the end of a runway on the south side of the airfield, is the second such project at Hartsfield-Jackson and is expected to eliminate more than 400 runway crossings a day. The first end-around taxiway was built on the north side of the airfield in 2007.

The project ended up being delayed during the pandemic and cost $22 million more than originally expected. But officials say the Atlanta airport is now one of only two U.S. airports to have two end-around taxiways.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The airport held a ceremony and water cannon salute Tuesday to commemorate the completion of the project. It is expected to go into service before Thanksgiving, the busiest air travel period of the year. Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Balram Bheodari called it an example of the airport’s “focus on ensuring airport efficiency for the decades ahead.”

The new Runway 9 Left end-around taxiway built by contractor C.W. Matthews increases the maximum departure rate, reduces delays during taxiing, saves fuel and greatly decreases the need for aircraft to cross a runway. It allows planes “to taxi unimpeded” around the end of the runway while other planes are taking off and increases the runway’s capacity for departing flights, according to the airport’s master plan.

The construction began with work to prepare the site about four years ago, and the project was originally expected to be completed in 2021. But work was suspended on the project early in the COVID-19 pandemic amid a sharp decline in flights, before resuming last year.

According to Hartsfield-Jackson spokesman Andrew Gobeil, the price tag rose from a 2015 estimate of $59.5 million because of inflationary pressure on materials, labor and transportation. Funding for the project included about $48 million in federal funding. Airport projects are funded through a combination of airport revenue, bonds and grants.

The project has contributed to some frustrations for travelers. Construction of the end-around taxiway just south of the terminal caused the airport to close park-ride lots A and B and a park-ride reserve lot, reducing the number of spaces by more than 5,000.

The airport built a replacement parking facilities to make up for the loss, including the ATL West deck and the ATL Select park-ride lot.

Still, a reduction of parking near the terminal is being painfully felt by travelers this year. That’s because in addition to the closures of park-ride lots A and B, the airport has also closed off sections of the Terminal South parking deck for construction work to shore up the structure.

That is causing a shortage of parking spaces next to the terminal, with parking decks and lots regularly reaching capacity, requiring travelers to detour and reroute to find alternate parking while rushing to catch flights.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer