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Column: The emperor has a new terminal
by Dale Cardwell
May 24, 2012 02:07 PM | 1578 views | 0 0 comments | 18 18 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Dale Cardwell
Dale Cardwell
The city of Atlanta held a parade last Wednesday to celebrate the fact that the Emperor had a new set of clothes; but this was no fairy tale. Mayor Kasim Reed wanted to show off the Atlanta airport’s brand spankin’ new international terminal. Media outlets from far and wide came to see the world’s eighth wonder. Twelve new gates, delivered at a price tag of $1.58 billion , or $125 million per gate.

Across town, the non-partisan government watchdog group, Common Cause held its own event. A press briefing that delivered irrefutable evidence the City’s new terminal was and is completely unnecessary and a colossal monument to Atlanta’s “pay to play” politics.

Last week, I wrote about the fact the city maintains it has no idea how many international passengers use the original international terminal (Concourse E) per hour. That’s important why? Because when Concourse E opened in 1994, the Federal government boasted that the gigantic concourse could process between 6,000 and 8,000 passengers per hour. Nearly twenty years later, all available evidence shows Concourse E has never exceeded 50 percent capacity, and routinely hovers around 25 percent capacity on any given day.

Former Airport Ground Transportation Manager Steve Yates tried his best to point this out in 2004. He wrote letters to (then) Mayor Shirley Franklin, alerting her to the fact plans to build an additional (then 14) international gates were grossly misguided. The Mayor’s office responded with a promise to investigate. What Yates didn’t know, is that the Mayor was “in” on the boondoggle. Two years later, WSB reported there was never an investigation, and Steve Yates got fired for, according to his attorney, telling the truth.

Why should you care? Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson Airport is like Lake Lanier. In good times, (normal rainfall) the lake is the horn of plenty. We use it for everything from leisure, watering our lawns to providing our drinking water. In bad times (drought) we realize how fragile and valuable that resource actually is… The airport? In good times, it’s a horn of plenty; the generator of unimaginable commerce and wealth. In bad times, (tough economy) it becomes painfully obvious how Atlanta city leaders abuse this precious resource.

Atlanta is the domestic airline connection capital of the US. In fact, more than 90 percent of the airport’s traffic is domestic. So why did Atlanta build a $1.6 billion international palace? According to experts like Steve Yates, it was because “Atlanta had (your) money to spend, and Delta didn’t want more domestic competition, so Delta allowed Atlanta to build something that wouldn’t threaten its domestic business.”

What does that mean to you? Your Aunt Millie from Kansas City is going to pay a lot more for a round trip ticket to Atlanta, simply because the new international terminal precludes the airport from creating more domestic gates, and therefore, domestic competition. YOU will pay more to fly out of Atlanta for the same reason.

Atlanta’s terminal, at $125 million per gate, came in nearly 30 percent higher than New York LaGuardia’s new terminal, at $94 million per gate. Think about that. In the meantime, former Mayor Franklin and current Mayor Reed collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions from the builders and vendors who benefited from airport construction.

The tragedy is, most of Atlanta’s media outlets chose to skip the Common Cause Press Conference which made this waste abundantly clear. Why? Because across town, the Emperor had a new suit of clothes, and he wanted to show them (the new terminal) off.

For great consumer advice and companies you can trust, visit, watch Dale on TrustDale TV weekends on Fox 5, and listen to TrustDale Radio Saturday afternoons on Newstalk WSB.

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