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Atlanta Airport Shutdown Raises New Infrastructure Worries

December 28, 2017 Leave a comment DRI Admin

Many have praised Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport for coming back online relatively soon after a catastrophic power failure. But it’s also drawing attention to potential problems for other facilities reliant on increasingly old backup infrastructure.

After a fire that broke out under the airport on Dec. 17 took out both the main power supply and the redundant underground system, power was out for nearly 11 hours, resulting in 735 delayed flights and 1,593 cancelations – and naturally, an airport full of frustrated holiday travelers.

Some experts – including Rick Geddes, Director of Cornell University’s Program in Infrastructure Policy, who spoke with NBC – say this could be the first sign of a prevailing trend, if other airports (and aging facilities in general) don’t update and modernize their infrastructure, some of which is decades old. This is easier said than done, particularly for airports, which would lose revenue and travel access if they fully closed down for complete renovations. The result: infrastructure upgrades have moved at a slower pace in the U.S. compared to other countries that have built more modern airports more recently.

As the most modern airport in the U.S., Denver International Air (built in 1996) may be the model for how to develop renovations, Geddes told NBC News. The Denver City Council has approved a $1.8 billion redesign of a terminal as part of a public-private partnership (P3), which would both open significant capital into the airport’s infrastructure and allow the government to have its say in the updates.

If there’s a lesson here for resilience professionals working in older facilities, this would be a good time to check out what’s going on underground.