$800M bond deal OK'd for airport terminal

The Atlanta City Council approved an $800 million bond deal Monday that will be used to complete the international terminal at the city-run Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport.

Questions about the terminal's future surfaced last year when Delta Air Lines, the world's largest airline and the airport's most influential customer, objected to a $168 million contingency fund for the project, expected to cost about $1.35 billion. The airline argued the contingency fund was more than $100 million higher than what it agreed to and suggested it could lead to wasteful spending. The city, however, approved the larger contingency fund in March 2008.

The city and Delta are in discussions concerning a new multiyear lease.

The new terminal, to be named after the late Mayor Maynard Jackson, is seen by city and business leaders as critical to the region's growth. Airport officials expect the number of international passengers using the airport to jump from the current annual estimate of 9 million to 13 million in a decade.

"Anytime we can reinvest in that engine, then we should make that investment because [the airport] is an important economic tool for us," said Councilman H. Lamar Willis, a member of the council's transportation committee.

The terminal is scheduled to be completed by 2012.

The council also voted Monday to refinance $590 million in airport bonds from a variable to a fixed rate.

In other matters Monday, the council approved a contract with the Standard Parking Corp. to manage airport parking. Airport General Manager Ben DeCosta said parking is the airport's largest revenue source, at about $105 million a year.