Rails to Link Atlanta Airport, Convention Center to be Ready in 2009

The world's busiest airport and the state's second-largest convention center will be linked with a free rail system.

Experts say the transporter will be the first in the United States to link a major airport and a major convention center. It is also designed to reduce car traffic at the airport.

The transporter, also called a people mover, will connect Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport to the Georgia International Convention Center on Camp Creek Parkway in College Park and to a yet-to-be-built centralized hub for car rental companies.

The system will be similar to the automated trains that run between Hartsfield-Jackson's concourses.

Passengers will board rail cars at the airport and be transported half a mile on an elevated rail across I-85 and U.S. 29 to the Gateway Center, home to the convention center.

Construction of the stations and rental car hub are scheduled to begin within the next several months, according to the convention center's executive director, Hugh Austin.

Austin said the rail system is about 50 to 60 percent complete, with completion scheduled for early 2009.

"It is an electric train, which would help with the clean air campaign, and this means having the [convention center] located on a light rail system connected to the world's largest airport," he said. "It's the first of its kind in the U.S. where a large convention center is connected by transporter to a major airport."

The automated people mover system is a part of one of the major projects of the airport's development program that includes a consolidated rental car facility at the end of the 1.5-mile system that is expected to greatly reduce airport traffic.

The city of Atlanta will pay the project's $535 million construction tab, with College Park contributing to the rail operations costs based on a percentage of riders.

Gateway Center also is in negotiations to bring in a 400-room headquarters hotel and a 150-room suites hotel, with anticipated openings the first quarter of 2009. Grove Street Partners developers have office building, retail and restaurant plans already in the works as well.

Together, the projects at Gateway Center will cost about $230 million.

The first of three people-mover stations will be connected to the convention center by a covered walkway. Called the Pedestrian Plaza, the walkway will connect the station elevators to the convention center about 75 feet away.

Since the plaza still is in the early phases of design, with no decisions made on whether the walkway will be enclosed or just covered, no cost estimates are available.

Austin said the completion of the people mover will change the target audience of the convention center.

"Our market focus will move more in the direction with corporate clients due to the convenience factor," he said. "Our partnership with Hartsfield will only get stronger."

System description

1.5 miles long, dual-lane elevated guideway

3 stations

Maintenance and storage facility

10-minute round-trip time

Initial capacity --- 2,700 people per hour per day

Ultimate capacity --- 5,170 people per hour per day

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