On-Time Arrival for Fifth Runway at Atlanta Hartsfield-Jackson Int'l Airport

A series of public and private celebrations are planned for the days leading up to the May 27 opening.

Construction recently began on a $468 million program to build a rental car facility connected to the terminal by an elevated "people mover," and airport officials say costs on the 3-year project are already rising.

A new $31 million control tower is scheduled to open in May.

The runway project did survive an early brush with scandal. C.R. "Ronnie" Thornton, a contractor, pleaded guilty to making $130,000 in illegal campaign contributions to then-Mayor Bill Campbell in a failed bid to win a lucrative deal to bring in dirt for the huge earthen mound required to put the new runway at airport level. That deal was in the news during Campbell's recent corruption trial.

But airport officials say that, ironically, moving 18 million cubic yards of fill dirt (enough to fill the Georgia Dome six times) went remarkably smoothly. The 5.5-mile conveyor belt that carried dirt over I-285 eliminated about 5 million dump truck trips.

Airport officials say the fifth runway is almost surely the last one that will be built at Hartsfield-Jackson. The airport spent $390 million buying up land for the new runway, including homes, churches, fast-food restaurants and burial sites --- and there's simply no room for another two-mile chunk of concrete at the airfield that began in 1925 at an abandoned auto racetrack.

"I don't think we'll ever build another new runway," DeCosta said. "The cost would be astronomical, and we wouldn't get nearly as much benefit as this one provides."


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