Despite being identified by the Federal Aviation Administration as needing to increase its airline capacity by the year 2025, the metro Atlanta area currently has no feasible location for a second commercial airport, according to a study released last week by Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport.
The Atlanta Metropolitan Aviation Capacity Study Phase II, conducted recently by Hartsfield-Jackson and other local partners to find a suitable location for a companion commercial airport, ruled out 29 potential sites within a 100 mile-radius of downtown Atlanta. While the study named eight sites as compatible with a large commercial airport, each would be met with a combination of airspace and environmental challenges, according to the study.
“The study’s findings place even more emphasis on maximizing Hartsfield-Jackson’s capacity into the foreseeable future to accommodate aviation growth,” said Hartsfield-Jackson Aviation General Manager Louis Miller in a released statement. “To this end, we will begin a master plan update this fall to examine all possible ways to expand the airport’s capacity within its current geographical footprint.”
The FAA funded 75 percent of the $1 million study, according to Hartsfield-Jackson officials. Sites that made the final cut included Dobbins Air Reserve Base, Gwinnett County Airport, Paulding Northwest Atlanta Airport, Cobb County Airport, Cherokee County Airport, Cartersville Airport, Barrow County Airport, and a site in Dawson and Forsyth counties.
Of the finalists, Dobbins Air Reserve Base was identified as being fraught with the most challenges, due to its close proximity to Hartsfield-Jackson airspace and a mix of commercial and military operations at the site. A larger airport at the site would also have an “extensive residential impact” due to its proximity to several neighborhoods, schools, churches, cemeteries and parks, according to the study.
The Dawson/Forsyth location was identified as the least challenging, with no residential or commercial properties that would impede land modifications for airport use. Considerations would have to be made to protect buffers along the Etowah River, however, according to the study.
The first phase of the AMACS study was conducted in 2008, following a 2007 FAA report that identified Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson airport as one of several U.S. airports facing “critical capacity problems that are becoming more chronic.” Despite adding a fifth runway in 2006, Atlanta would need “additional capacity improvements” in order to meet air-travel demand by the year 2025, according to the 2007 report.
The second phase of the AMACS study, which attempted to locate an airport site capable of relieving congestion at Hartsfield-Jackson, started in early 2010 and finished earlier this year, according to John Kennedy, an airport spokesman.
In 2008, Hartsfield-Jackson began construction of the Maynard Holbrook Jackson International Terminal, which is expected to be completed by spring 2012 at the cost of $1.4 billion, Mr. Kennedy said.
The terminal's construction is unrelated to the study, though it will help the airport handle increased international travel demand for the foreseeable future, he said.
International passengers account for approximately 10 percent of the 88 million passengers that pass through Hartsfield-Jackson annually, Mr. Kennedy added.
“The feasibility of a second airport in the Atlanta metropolitan region will need to be revisited periodically in the future,” he said.
Hartsfield-Jackson serves more than 240,000 passengers daily, according to its website.