Atlanta's airport is getting a second "people mover" train --- this one an above-ground line that will shuttle travelers between the main terminal and a new rental car complex.
Construction is set to start next week on an elevated track that will span I-85 to connect Hartsfield-Jackson International to the rental center.
The $170 million train is the most visible part of the long-planned, $468 million complex to be built on the west side of I-85 just south of Camp Creek Parkway. The 100-acre facility is scheduled to open in late 2008.
Beginning Tuesday, passengers who ride airport shuttles, limos and vans will see their normal pickup and dropoff spots shift slightly farther from the terminal as work on the train line gets under way. Construction barriers may make pickup spots harder to find.
"They're not moving very far," Kathy Masters, a senior aviation engineer at Hartsfield-Jackson, said of the ground transportation connections. "But they won't be as visible to pedestrians as they are now."
Customer service agents wearing teal jackets, extra police and a raft of new signs will help redirect the 600,000 travelers who use airport ground transportation each month. Taxis won't be affected.
When the train line opens, arriving passengers headed for rental cars no longer will ride shuttle buses to get to lots at various locations around the airport. Instead, they will get aboard the people mover for a 1.5-mile ride to a single, three-story rental car terminal housing all companies. Along the way the train will stop at the Georgia International Convention Center.
The train cars will be the same type --- and made by the same company --- as those in Hartsfield-Jackson's underground trains between gate concourses and the main terminal.
The two systems will not be connected, however, so riders will not have the option of staying on the underground train all the way to the rental center.
The new rental center will include two parking garages with room for 8,500 cars and "quick turn" car wash, fueling and maintenance stations.
The project is part of Hartsfield-Jackson's overall expansion plan, which includes a fifth runway set to open in May and a new international terminal on the east side of the airport. The latter project, however, has been delayed until at least 2010 after a dispute last year led to the firing of the design team.
Airport officials said the bulk of the costs of the complex --- known as the Consolidated Rental Agency Complex (CONRAC) --- will be paid for by a $4-a-day surcharge on airport rental cars. They say the final price tag is likely to rise due to increasing labor and material costs.
Don Boyken, whose consulting firm Boyken International is involved in several phases of the project, said linking the existing terminal and the future rental car facility via an elevated train won't be easy.
"In and around the airport you have height restrictions, roads and trains crisscross, and the trains have grade requirements," he said. "This is an extraordinarily complicated project."
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A series of public and private celebrations are planned for the days leading up to the May 27 opening.