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Features - April 2009


Atlanta’s $636 Million Rental Car Facility Set to Arrive by November

By Debra Wood

A $635.9-million program to build a consolidated rental car facility that will connect to Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport via a people-mover system is on target for an on-time completion and opening in November.

“This allows the airport to free up the curbside,” says Todd McClendon, assistant director of project management responsible for the facility, called CONRAC, for the planning and development department at the Atlanta Department of Aviation. “And by taking the rental car companies to this new site, [the airport] has the ability to take that valuable property [where rental company lots are now located] and look at other uses.” Airport officials estimate that about 2.2 million passengers arriving at Hartsfield-Jackson each year rent a car. They say it is the fourth-largest rental car market in the country and forecast that volume will double in the next 10 years.

(Photo courtesy Atlanta Department of Aviation)

Currently, rental car companies’ shuttle passengers to offsite locations. The CONRAC, located on a 70-acre site near the terminal, and the automated people mover will streamline that process.

The project broke ground in 2006, with the people mover starting first. Testing of the people-mover system started in February.

The People Mover

McClendon says the people mover will “be an extension of the airport function you see today.”

Archer Western Contractors/Capital Construction Co., a joint venture between Archer Western Contractors and Capital Contracting, both of Atlanta, hold a $208 million design-build contract. It includes design and construction of the automated people-mover guideway; a 1.3-acre maintenance and storage facility; the Gateway Station at the Georgia International Convention Center, located between the airport and the CONRAC; and the Central Passenger Terminal Complex at the terminal. The guideway is elevated about 80 ft in the air. Mitsubishi Heavy Industries America of New York provided the six, two-car trains and the associated control systems. Heath and Lineback Engineers of Marietta, Ga., designed the guideway and maintenance facility.

“The intriguing and hard part for us was getting all the information on Mitsubishi’s requirements and then design a bridge that would function with all of that going on top of it,” says Ken Aschbacher, project manager for Archer Western.

The people mover will be able to transport 2,600 passengers an hour one way, with its current configuration, between the passenger terminal and the CONRAC. The city negotiated easements with the nearby Gateway conference center to cross its site and has located a terminal at the complex. Each trip along the 1.5-mi guideway will take about five minutes.

“The people mover comes across active airport infrastructure, and once you get past that, we had to cross Interstate 85, a Metropolitan Atlanta Regional Transportation Authority switchyard and a public road,” McClendon says. “Negotiating the easements was as difficult as building it.”

Drilled piles provide a foundation for the guideway supports up to the terminal, where caissons were used to allow for future airport expansion. Most of the guideways are constructed of precast concrete, with cast-in-place concrete at the curves and steel beams where the bridge crosses the interstate, where there are spans of up to 168 ft.

Guideway beams were set at night, as were interstate lane changes needed to provide access to the center bents, says Butch Gowder, the Atlanta Department of Aviation’s construction manager of CONRAC for planning and development.

The maintenance facility is essentially a structural-steel building atop a bridge deck, Aschbacher says. It sits 40 ft in the air and is supported by driven piles.


Under a separate contract, Austin-Prad, a joint venture between Austin Commercial and PRAD Group, both of Atlanta, is constructing the $255 million, Consolidated Rental Car facility. Austin-Prad’s contract covers a four-story, 140,000-sq-ft customer service center; people mover station; seven quick turnaround areas with 58 fuel pumps, 19 wash bays and space for light maintenance; two four-story parking decks with 2.4 million-sq-ft for 8,700 cars; and bridges linking the service center with the parking areas.

Austin-Prad built the system around and between the people-mover guideways, something Scott Kahler, senior superintendent for Austin Commercial, calls the most challenging aspect of the project.

“We had to use smaller equipment,” Kahler says. “We had to coordinate with Archer Western as we built up, so we could lift over their track, building up through the middle.”

APM columns pass through sections of the customer service building. And portions of the building stop about 3 ft below the people mover guideway.

“We had to build that up, get formwork in, rebar and pour concrete with minimal space between us and the bottom of the track,” Kahler says.

The fourth floor of the service center is about 4.5 ft above the track. Customers will enter that building at that top level. Rental car counters will occupy the second and third floors, and buses to transport people to offsite locations will be located on the ground floor. Mechanical and office space for the aviation authority are also located on the first level.

The poured-in-place concrete service center sits on a primarily auger-pile foundation with some spread footers. Drilling the piles required special equipment that fit under the APM. February 2008 rains brought mud and slowed progress on the building. Austin-Prad excavated the dirt and replaced it with stone to keep the project moving forward.

Crews continue to work overtime to keep the job on schedule.

Glass, brick and metal panels clad the exterior. Nine structural-steel bridges, with concrete metal decking, connect the service center to the two parking garages, which are dedicated to returning cars and holding ready cars. An auger-pile foundation supports the parking decks.

The wash bays are equipped with a reclaim system to minimize water usage. McClendon estimates it will repurpose 80% of the water. The CONRAC team is striving for LEED silver certification.

“This is so much more than a parking garage,” McClendon says. “It will be dramatic space for a tight budget.”


Useful Sources:

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

Austin-Prad CONRAC

Austin Commercial


CONRAC Project Team:

Owner: Atlanta Department of Aviation, Atlanta

Contractor, CONRAC customer service center and garages: Austin-Prad, a joint venture between Austin Commercial, Atlanta, and PRAD Group, Atlanta

Contractor, people mover: Archer Western Contractors/Capital Construction Co. Joint Venture between Archer Western Contractors, Atlanta, and Capital Contracting, Atlanta

Designer, CONRAC customer service center and garages: Hartsfield-Jackson CONRAC Design Consultants, a joint venture team among R.L. Brown and Associates, Decatur, Ga.; Pierce Goodwin Alexander & Linville, Atlanta; and Walter P. Moore & Associates, Atlanta.

Designer, Automated People Mover: Heath and Lineback Engineers, Marietta, Ga.

Designer, APM Stations Gateway and CPTC: Atlanta Gateway Designers, a joint venture between Gresham, Smith & Partners, Atlanta, and Duckett Design Group, East Point. Ga.


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