Terminal's plan, cost set for October

The overall look and cost of a delayed new international terminal for Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport should be known by October, airport General Manager Ben DeCosta says.

DeCosta on Wednesday told the Atlanta City Council's Transportation Committee that the "schematic design" of the proposed Maynard Holbrook Jackson Jr. International Terminal is nearing completion, and he plans to make a formal presentation in a few months.

The chief of the world's busiest airport said the new terminal will cost "in excess" of $1 billion, but he added the final cost hasn't been determined. The contents of a briefing on the new terminal, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution under the Georgia Open Records Act, hinted the cost could reach $1.5 billion. DeCosta said numbers in that briefing were "too preliminary" to shed any light on a final cost.

Airport officials want the terminal to open in 2011 to handle the airport's growing international passenger load. The international gate concourse has no entry or exit terminal of its own, and local passengers must enter or exit through the existing main terminal at the far end of the airport. The arrangement forces arriving international passengers to recheck their baggage once they clear U.S. Customs and make the train trip to the main terminal.

DeCosta two years ago fired the original design team for the new terminal because he said their plan would have exceeded the budget. That group is suing the city for $60 million. A new team's design is the one due to be unveiled in October.

A new international terminal has been discussed since the late 1990s. Since then construction costs have soared, as have costs associated with post-911 airport security. In 1999, when the airlines and the airport agreed on the cost of an overall development plan for the airport, the new terminal's price was pegged at about $700 million. DeCosta, however, has argued that figure was not a cost estimate for the new facility.

Delta Air Lines, the airport's biggest customer, is paying close attention to plans for the new terminal. The airline, which emerged from bankruptcy earlier this year, has added 60 international routes systemwide in a year or so.