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Atlanta too busy for just 1 airport?

By JIM THARPE
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Published on: 05/16/07

Federal officials Tuesday planted the seeds for a second commercial airport in metro Atlanta, and in doing so, launched what will likely be a long-running debate about where it should be located.

"Now is the time for Atlanta to consider having multiple commercial airports," U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters told reporters at Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport as she announced a $1 million grant to study capacity expansion in Atlanta.

presented the results of a study that found major U.S. cities must expand their airports or build new ones in the next 20 years to keep pace with an ever-increasing demand for air travel. Blakey said the nation might need to build up to four more major commercial airports during the next three decades.

"Atlanta, Chicago, Las Vegas and San Diego are among the likely candidates," Blakey wrote in the preface of the FAA report, "Capacity Needs in the National Airspace System."

Hartsfield-Jackson currently is the world's busiest airport, with about 86 million passengers a year — but one reason it is so busy is that, unlike in some other major metro areas, it is the lone commercial airport for the region.

A second Atlanta airport is a far-off idea — the just-announced study could take two years. And if that study calls for a new airfield, it could be two decades before jets land on its runways.

But the idea that the Atlanta metro area could get a second commercial airport has rekindled the old north-south debate: Should it be built on the south side, which has fewer residents to complain and cheaper, more available land, or on the fast-growing north side, closer to the passengers who will use it? The discussion is likely to continue for years as private citizens, aviation experts, politicians and pundits join the fray.

"They'll have to put it on the north side," said Vinings resident Kevin Jones, a senior loan officer who frequently flies out of Atlanta on business. "Why put another one on the south side? We've got one there already."

The man who runs Hartsfield-Jackson has — in the past — hinted at a possible south metro location, but was not taking sides Tuesday. Even if a second airport becomes a reality, Hartsfield-Jackson General Manager Ben DeCosta pointed out, it could be several decades and billions of dollars down the road.

"I'll leave that to the people who do the site selection studies and our political leaders to determine what is best," DeCosta said.

U.S. Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.), who has been involved in aviation issues for much of his 40 years in politics, said he has seen all of this before. There was intense discussion nearly three decades back about building a second Atlanta airport, but officials opted instead to expand Hartsfield-Jackson. "It's way too early to talk about building a second airport and to be talking about where it should be built," Isakson said. "The facts [of the study] should dictate that."

During the 1970s, the airport banked 20,000 acres in Paulding and Dawson counties for possible future use. But most officials think those parcels would provide unlikely sites for a new airport, and that the land would likely be used in a trade for a new site.

"We do have those assets available to us, but I don't see them as likely for a second airport," said Clair Muller, an Atlanta City Council member who chairs the council's Transportation Committee. Muller's committee oversees the airport, which is run by the city.

Muller said she is undecided about a preferred location for a new airport, but thinks any new facility must be linked to plans for future ground transportation, such as commuter rail.

The councilwoman acknowledged that there will likely be strong arguments to place any new airport in the heavily populated northern section of the metro area.

"If that's where the population increases are, that would probably make more sense," she said.

But that population growth could in itself cause huge problems in finding a site for a new airport. Residents are not likely to relish the thought of jets roaring over their houses, even if they like the thought of a nearby airport.

Officials would also have to find 5,000 to 10,000 acres of relatively flat land to the north, which would be no easy task.

"Twenty-five years ago that wasn't an easy thing to get," Isakson said. "And it's a whole lot harder now."

State Rep. Earl Ehrhart (R-Powder Springs) said he would like to be part of any study group that Mayor Shirley Franklin appoints to study Hartsfield-Jackson capacity and the possible need for a second airport. Franklin was out of town Tuesday and could not be reached for comment.

Ehrhart, a private pilot who chairs the state House of Representatives Rules Committee, said land for a new airport would be cheaper on the south side. And opposition could be weaker since the area has fewer residents.

"But can you get the traveling public to travel past Hartsfield-Jackson to go to another airport?" he said. "The argument for it on the north side is the market. That's where your passenger market is."

Ehrhart, however, said there would be massive opposition from many residents in the north metro area if an airport were proposed too close to their homes. And he said large parcels of land suitable for an airport would be difficult to find.

"Where do you get that?" he asked. "It's not available in Cobb County."
This would be great. It would push Atlanta into a much bigger light in the country than it already is.
 

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How about to the east, in Rockdale, Newton or even Walton County?
 

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I know this is a far fetched idea but what about expanding the Airport here in Birmingham to handle to excess traffic from Hartsfield-Jackson. In terms of the Metro Atlanta area, how about between there and Athens??.
 

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^ Hehe. Do I spot a little ulterior motive there?
What? Me? :tongue2:

I guess it would be a little more convenient ;)

But I always think the east side of Atlanta is way underdeveloped, and the southside of the metro could be a much more interesting place. I used to show houses in Jonesboro and Hampton, and it's a lot more like Augusta or Evans than like Dunwoody or Cobb. And I'd like to see Conyers and Covington develop and get a rail link to MARTA (along with the rest of the metro).
 

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I know this is a far fetched idea but what about expanding the Airport here in Birmingham to handle to excess traffic from Hartsfield-Jackson. In terms of the Metro Atlanta area, how about between there and Athens??.
That could be good for Anniston and Gadsden. Maybe halfway between Anniston and B'ham, then close the current downtown airport and remove the height restrictions downtown. Then turn the current airport into some type of industrial park.
 

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That could be good for Anniston and Gadsden. Maybe halfway between Anniston and B'ham, then close the current downtown airport and remove the height restrictions downtown. Then turn the current airport into some type of industrial park.
That would be a great idea, but too much money has been poured into the current facility with runway expansion and the like.

Ive always envision the current downtown airport area (if ever closed) as a office/residental mix, couple of highrises and such.
 

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Wherever they put it, it's certainly needed.


I mean think about it - most major metro areas in the U.S. the size of Atlanta have more than one airport.


Did some quick research - Chicago has two (ORD and MDW, with a third one possibly on the way), D.C. has three (IAD, DCA, BWI), New York has three (JFK, EWR, LGA), Houston has two (IAH, EFD), Dallas has two (DFW, DAL), Los Angeles has five (LAX, BUR, SNA, ONT, LGB), the San Francisco Bay Area has three (SFO, OAK, SJC), and so on and so forth.

It makes no sense for Atlanta to have just one airport, that's really the only reason why it's so busy and why it surpassed Chicago O'Hare. Atlanta's nowhere near the size of Chicago, and yet it gets more air traffic than O'Hare because Chicago has Midway to help relieve traffic from O'Hare.


I don't think any city in the U.S. needs another airport as badly as Atlanta. A second airport would be great - it would really only handle domestic flights, especially those from other southern cities.


@ Bham24yrold -


I'd rather not make Birmingham an airport designed to relieve traffic from Atlanta. Next thing you know, Birmingham would turn into Atlanta's biggest suburb. Laugh if you want, but ATL metro has already has expanded into Alabama. Plus Birmingham is too far away (two hours away). A second airport would have to be somewhere in Fulton County or at least somewhere within 10 or 20 miles of Fulton County, not in the next state over.


A better idea for Birmingham would be a Birmingham-Tuscaloosa airport west of the city. But that DEFINITELY won't happen in our lifetimes..........
 

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Wherever they put it, it's certainly needed.


I mean think about it - most major metro areas in the U.S. the size of Atlanta have more than one airport.


Did some quick research - Chicago has two (ORD and MDW, with a third one possibly on the way), D.C. has three (IAD, DCA, BWI), New York has three (JFK, EWR, LGA), Houston has two (IAH, EFD), Dallas has two (DFW, DAL), Los Angeles has five (LAX, BUR, SNA, ONT, LGB), the San Francisco Bay Area has three (SFO, OAK, SJC), and so on and so forth.

It makes no sense for Atlanta to have just one airport, that's really the only reason why it's so busy and why it surpassed Chicago O'Hare. Atlanta's nowhere near the size of Chicago, and yet it gets more air traffic than O'Hare because Chicago has Midway to help relieve traffic from O'Hare.


I don't think any city in the U.S. needs another airport as badly as Atlanta. A second airport would be great - it would really only handle domestic flights, especially those from other southern cities.


@ Bham24yrold -


I'd rather not make Birmingham an airport designed to relieve traffic from Atlanta. Next thing you know, Birmingham would turn into Atlanta's biggest suburb. Laugh if you want, but ATL metro has already has expanded into Alabama. Plus Birmingham is too far away (two hours away). A second airport would have to be somewhere in Fulton County or at least somewhere within 10 or 20 miles of Fulton County, not in the next state over.


A better idea for Birmingham would be a Birmingham-Tuscaloosa airport west of the city. But that DEFINITELY won't happen in our lifetimes..........
miami has 3 miami international, ft laurdale hollywood international, west palm beach international
 

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Haha, Yakirz, I'm ready for anything. We don't even get flights to Newark anymore....:bash:

How about somewhere in north Fulton? Like Alpharetta? :)
 

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It's a pipe dream, but, as someone who has frequented Hartsfield on numerous occasions, I'm here to state that it is the worst airport in the world, as well, when it comes to service. There are too many flights and too many people. I spend a majority of the time waiting to take off....sometimes close to an hour. I spend extra $$$ whenever possible to avoid Hartsfield. I would love to see Atlanta get another airport. It is sorely needed. I love plenty of things about Atlanta. It is one of my favorite cities. But, it has a terrible airport, right now, in Hartsfield. It is a travelers nightmare.
 

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That could be good for Anniston and Gadsden. Maybe halfway between Anniston and B'ham, then close the current downtown airport and remove the height restrictions downtown. Then turn the current airport into some type of industrial park.
My dream: A large man-made lake in place of the current airport that feeds off Village Creek. Include recreation, smart growth neighborhoods, golfing, resorts, the whole shebangabang (how is that spelled anyway?). Yeah, I dream big. But I do believe Birmingham would be wise to try and push for some sort of new airport.

The current one is severely landlocked and its expansion capabilities are severely limited. I don't recall the exact details but I believe there was a study released a few years ago which stated Birmingham should start upgrading its infrastructure now to support more residential growth and air traffic - because, apparently - it's dead smack in one of the predicted "growth zones."
 

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The current one is severely landlocked and its expansion capabilities are severely limited. I don't recall the exact details but I believe there was a study released a few years ago which stated Birmingham should start upgrading its infrastructure now to support more residential growth and air traffic - because, apparently - it's dead smack in one of the predicted "growth zones."



That part of town is not exactly prime real estate - but I guess if you shut down the airport and the neighborhoods on the east side starting gentrifying, it could become valuable in about 20 or 30 years..................


BTW, B'ham Bound, I saw ya boy (Kincaid) at a banquet last night. Looking good as ever! Kissing ass cause he knows it's an election year. I had so much to say to him, but I didn't say shit because, well...........it was a formal event, I wasn't about cause a ruckus or anything. I just shook his hand and smiled. I wanted to grit my teeth and say "you sorry bastard, your good-for-nothing ass is going to ruin Birmingham"...................but I kept my mouth shut and decided to be a good little boy, at least for the night.
 

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Wherever they put it, it's certainly needed.


I mean think about it - most major metro areas in the U.S. the size of Atlanta have more than one airport.


Did some quick research - Chicago has two (ORD and MDW, with a third one possibly on the way), D.C. has three (IAD, DCA, BWI), New York has three (JFK, EWR, LGA), Houston has two (IAH, EFD), Dallas has two (DFW, DAL), Los Angeles has five (LAX, BUR, SNA, ONT, LGB), the San Francisco Bay Area has three (SFO, OAK, SJC), and so on and so forth.

It makes no sense for Atlanta to have just one airport, that's really the only reason why it's so busy and why it surpassed Chicago O'Hare. Atlanta's nowhere near the size of Chicago, and yet it gets more air traffic than O'Hare because Chicago has Midway to help relieve traffic from O'Hare.


I don't think any city in the U.S. needs another airport as badly as Atlanta. A second airport would be great - it would really only handle domestic flights, especially those from other southern cities.


@ Bham24yrold -


I'd rather not make Birmingham an airport designed to relieve traffic from Atlanta. Next thing you know, Birmingham would turn into Atlanta's biggest suburb. Laugh if you want, but ATL metro has already has expanded into Alabama. Plus Birmingham is too far away (two hours away). A second airport would have to be somewhere in Fulton County or at least somewhere within 10 or 20 miles of Fulton County, not in the next state over.


A better idea for Birmingham would be a Birmingham-Tuscaloosa airport west of the city. But that DEFINITELY won't happen in our lifetimes..........
Come on now, having the Birmingham Airport relieve some of the traffic from Hartsfield-Jackson would be HUGE for this area. Its wouldnt make us Atlanta's biggest suburb, but instead this would offer people here more direct flights to major cities in the US and around the world. People in Birmingham already drive to Hartsfield-Jackson to catch flights, especially to international destinations.

There was an idea for an airport between Birmingham and Tuscaloosa about 20 yrs ago, but like many other ideas here its long since dead.
 

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Wherever they put it, it's certainly needed.


I mean think about it - most major metro areas in the U.S. the size of Atlanta have more than one airport.


Did some quick research - Chicago has two (ORD and MDW, with a third one possibly on the way), D.C. has three (IAD, DCA, BWI), New York has three (JFK, EWR, LGA), Houston has two (IAH, EFD), Dallas has two (DFW, DAL), Los Angeles has five (LAX, BUR, SNA, ONT, LGB), the San Francisco Bay Area has three (SFO, OAK, SJC), and so on and so forth.

It makes no sense for Atlanta to have just one airport, that's really the only reason why it's so busy and why it surpassed Chicago O'Hare. Atlanta's nowhere near the size of Chicago, and yet it gets more air traffic than O'Hare because Chicago has Midway to help relieve traffic from O'Hare.
The reason its so busy is because of Delta's ENORMOUS hub. It handles more passengers than both airports in most of those markets including Dallas, Houston, and the San Fancisco Bay area.
 
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