Airport bond deal gets approval

Leaders see terminal as critical to growth.$800 million plan will be used to complete project, set for 2012.

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

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