Federal aid to help widen cramped Atlanta airport concourse

Travelers arrive and depart at the Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport on Tuesday, Nov. 23, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)

Atlanta’s airport is getting $40 million to help expand a cramped concourse, one of the largest in a nearly $1 billion group of grants to 85 airports for terminals that the Biden administration announced Thursday.

The money will only cover a fraction of the cost to widen Concourse D at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Built in 1980, Concourse D was designed to handle smaller planes, with a central walkway only 20 feet wide and a total width of only 60 feet. But it now handles full-sized jets, leaving it overcrowded and lacking in amenities.

Atlanta Mayor Andre Jackson and Democratic U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff announced the project, saying it would improve efficiency and passenger experiences at the world’s busiest airport. In the past, federal funds have gone largely into runways, taxiways and towers.

Airport General Manager Balram “B” Bheodari said there’s no firm cost estimate yet, but that work would cost hundreds of millions of dollars. The rest would be financed from passenger facility surcharges on tickets and rent paid by airlines.

Bheodari said another year of planning is likely before work starts. The project could take five years. The Atlanta City Council approved a $5 million planning contract in February.

The Atlanta airport expects to receive $500 million in federal funds for various purposes in the next five years, Bheodari said.