Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport is about to embark on a massive construction project on its parking decks that is likely to cause headaches for travelers for years to come.
The sprawling airport project to structurally reinforce and then eventually replace its aging parking decks is expected to take 10 years to complete. All told, the eventual replacement of the Hartsfield-Jackson decks is likely to cost hundreds of millions of dollars. It’s all part of the airport’s broader expansion and modernization plan now estimated to cost $10.8 billion.
When the project is finished, officials say the airport will have new decks to last perhaps half a century and improve airport access.
Starting April 20, portions of the Terminal South parking deck, where many Delta Air Lines passengers park, will be closed.
While the parking decks will not completely close while the $37 million reinforcement work is done, when construction begins on the South deck, the project will take about 2,500 of that deck’s 7,500 parking spaces out of commission at a time — just before the start of the busy summer travel season.
The parking structures are 40 years old and are due a facelift and upgrade, said Tom Nissalke, Hartsfield-Jackson’s assistant general manager of planning and development.
“These decks are heavily used,” he said.
To make up for the lost parking capacity close to the domestic terminal, the airport will rely on remote facilities.
Airport officials want travelers to consider using the ATL West parking deck, which opened last year near the Rental Car Center and Georgia International Convention Center and is connected to the domestic terminal by free SkyTrain. Another option is the ATL Select parking lot on Sullivan Road, which has shuttle service and also opened last year. The airport also has Park-Ride Lot C with shuttle service.
But those options are not as convenient as the existing North and South parking decks. That could cause frustrations for travelers accustomed to pulling into the closer decks for daily parking and walking a short distance to the terminal.
With fewer spaces available, the decks are likely to fill up faster, forcing motorists approaching the airport to reroute to another location to park. For travelers rushing to catch a flight, such detours can be particularly exasperating.
Jai Ferrell, Hartsfield-Jackson’s assistant general manager of commercial development, said the airport will have close to as many spaces available, but “we’re just redirecting a lot of the parking.”
Some lanes of the Terminal South lower level roadway will also close due to the construction.
Michelle Ansley of Anniston, Ala., drove to Hartsfield-Jackson on Friday for the first time and parked in the North deck to pick up her granddaughter.
If the parking deck had been full, “I wouldn’t know where to go or where to come back to, or the shuttle process,” Ansley said. She said she imagines the construction will “really cause a lot of anxiety.”
The first phase of work in May to install reinforcing bars in the deck will start on the inner half of the Terminal South parking deck, near Delta’s check-in area and baggage claim. Structural renewal work will be done on levels 1, 2 and 3.
While that work is done, the Terminal North deck will remain open, along with the top level of the South deck and spaces on the outer half of the deck farther away from the terminal.
The airport plans to relocate hourly parking from level 3 to the ground floor. Parking for passengers with disabilities will be moved to level 4 in daily parking, and South gold reserve parking will be displaced.
The initial reinforcement work on the South deck is expected to take until January 2023 to complete, then work will begin to reinforce the North deck on the other side of the terminal.
The parking decks tend to reach capacity during busy periods. On Friday afternoon, daily parking, economy lots and Park-Ride lot C were all listed as full on the airport’s website.
In recent years, the airport has altered its plans for parking deck construction because of shifting demand for parking and changing consumer habits. Increased use of ride-share services such as Uber and Lyft have decreased parking demand.
Still, parking brings in tens of millions of dollars to the airport every year, a key source of revenue the airport is eager to preserve.
An original proposal to replace old decks with new ones double the size was pared back. Then the pandemic sapped demand even more.
Current airport manager Balram Bheodari decided to move forward with a plan to shore up the existing decks and then rebuild them at about the same capacity.
But first, the initial phases will extend the life of the existing decks another three to five years before full replacement of the structures.
Once the existing decks are reinforced, the airport expects to start construction of a new deck, then gradually rebuild the existing decks.
Options for parking at Hartsfield-Jackson
Hourly parking and daily parking are in the parking decks that will be under construction, starting with the South deck this year. Hourly parking will be relocated to the ground level of the deck and daily parking will be limited due to the construction.
Hourly parking: $3 an hour for the first two hours, $4 an hour after that, $36 a day after 6 hours
Daily parking: $3 an hour, $19 a day
ATL West deck: $16 a day
Economy parking: $14 a day
Park-Ride lot C: $10 a day.
ATL Select park-ride lots: $10 a day for uncovered parking, $14 a day for covered parking
(Park-Ride lots A and B have closed due to construction of an end-around taxiway.)
Signs on airport roads direct motorists to the different parking options. The airport has parking deck and lot status updates on its website at atl.com — though status can change to full quickly, especially during busy periods. Tune to 830 AM radio for airport parking information.
Take a photo of your parking location as a reminder when you return from your trip.
Off-airport private parking lots, including those off Camp Creek Road, are another popular option
MARTA is another alternative. The airport MARTA station is located inside the domestic terminal.
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Credit: Courtesy Roman United / Jason Getz