City documents say the South parking deck is more than 40 years old, and studies and inspections have determined it must be replaced.
An initial year-long project to start in May will shore up the existing South deck to last for the next three to five years, according to the airport. Then, similar work will be done on the North deck. Shoring up the decks will allow them to continue to be partially used when they are eventually demolished in stages, according to the airport.
“We’ve had to do this in phases to allow for ongoing access to parking on airport,” said Hartsfield-Jackson senior deputy general manager Michael Smith.
The airport will eventually embark on a massive, years-long project to demolish the North and South parking decks and replace them — part of the airport’s $6 billion expansion and modernization plan to prepare for future passenger traffic growth.
The airport built two new remote parking decks — the ATL Select park-ride shuttle lot at 1800 Sullivan Road and the ATL West deck, connected to the domestic terminal via free SkyTrain — to expand and replace parking options while the North and South decks are under construction. But they are not as convenient as the North and South daily and hourly decks that are a short walk from the terminal
The airport has waffled on parking deck construction because of changes in consumer habits. The original plan was to replace the old decks with new ones that would double the size from four levels to eight. It was estimated to cost $550 million to $750 million in 2014 dollars.
Then, increased use of Uber and Lyft decreased demand for parking, and the prospect of self-driving cars raised the possibility that parking demand could fall further in future years. The project was delayed and scaled back, with airport officials saying they wanted to replace the old structures with new decks of the same size.
And in February 2020 even before the pandemic drove a sharp decline in air travel, then-airport manager John Selden said airport parking revenue had begun to decline, and the airport would rethink the parking deck reconstruction plan and look at renovating the current decks to extend their use.
Current airport manager Balram Bheodari has decided to move forward with the plan to shore up the existing parking decks and rebuild them, despite competition from alternatives.
Parking is a key source of revenue for the airport.