Drivers heading to Charlotte Douglas International Airport this week will notice some changes, as portions of a long-planned new entrance road are set to open by Friday.
The newly built inbound lanes on Josh Birmingham Parkway will give drivers coming from Billy Graham Parkway a more direct route to the long-term parking lots and the terminal, said interim Deputy Aviation Director Jack Christine.
“The biggest benefit is you’ll have an easier, more fluid traffic pattern to the terminal that will bring you directly past the parking lots,” said Christine.
The new route will take drivers on Josh Birmingham north closer to Wilkinson Boulevard before the road swings south and connects with Little Rock Road. That eliminates turns onto other roads, such as Old Dowd and Little Rock roads, that were previously required to reach long-term parking.
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Earlier this year, the airport turned Little Rock into a one-way, inbound-only road to facilitate quicker access to the terminal.
To help drivers cope with the new traffic pattern this week, Christine said there will be extra signs and staff to direct traffic.
“Folks need to know that they need to allow enough time to get through the traffic changes,” said Christine.
The new entrance road has been planned since the late 1970s and was originally supposed to be a state-funded road, Christine said. But with no progress being made, Christine said the airport decided several years ago to fund the $21.5 million project itself, with bonds paid for with airport revenues.
The work will continue this summer. Next, the airport will work on new outbound lanes and a new Little Rock Road extension north of Wilkinson to connect straight to Interstate 85 without any turns.
Christine said the new road system should be completed before the holiday travel season kicks off before Thanksgiving. But he said wet winter has slowed construction.
The airport’s new $120 million hourly parking decks in front of the terminal are also still scheduled to open in November. That will add 4,000 public parking spaces, and the 3,000 airport rental cars will also move into the parking deck soon after it opens.
“Construction projects like this are always very weather dependent,” said Christine. “If we have a wet summer, it will be particularly challenging.”
Next spring, the airport will begin to work in earnest on a planned new eight-lane roadway directly in front of the terminal, up from the current three lanes. Charlotte Douglas also plans to build tunnels and bridges to connect the terminal to the new hourly parking decks so passengers will no longer have to cross the road.