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Big traffic changes are coming to the Charlotte airport, including Uber and Lyft zones

Charlotte airport visitors will see big changes to traffic around the airport starting Thursday night, including some lane closures, five new public lanes and changes to Lyft and Uber pick-ups.

The Charlotte Douglas International Airport will open five lower level lanes to the public. Before Thursday, the public was only using the three lanes closest to the terminal curb on the lower level.

Those three lanes will be closed during the traffic pattern shift.

The airport added the five new lanes between the existing three lanes and the parking deck and car rental complex. Those lanes were opened to buses and shuttles in 2017, but hadn’t been opened to the public before Thursday.

The airport now has eight lanes on the lower level and eight lanes on the upper level of the terminal curb front.

The $50 million roadway project is part of the Charlotte airport’s “Destination CLT” — a $2.5 billion to $3.1 billion renovation and expansion program.

There will be a transition period of just over a week, while final construction is completed, CLT Chief Operating Officer Jack Christine said.

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The Charlotte Douglas International Airport is opening five new lanes to the public starting at 11 p.m. Oct. 24. Courtesy of the Charlotte Douglas International Airport

Starting at 11 p.m. Oct. 24 to 5 a.m. Oct. 31, private vehicles and commercial vehicles, like buses and shuttles, will share the five public lanes. On Oct. 31, buses and shuttles will shift to the three inner lanes on the lower level.

Visitors picking up travelers from the Charlotte airport will now use the outer five lanes on the lower level.

The lower level airport pick-up zones will shift from letter identification signs to numbers. Those zones are important for people using Uber or Lyft or trying to find someone picking them up at the airport. Brightly colored signs will direct passengers starting Oct. 31.

“It will be very busy on the curb next week, while we do the transition,” Christine said. “But the hope is we can get that done as fast as possible.”

Throughout the transition of Oct. 24 to Oct. 31, ride-share companies like Lyft and Uber will be located on the upper level. At 5 a.m. Oct. 31, Lyft and Uber pick-ups will be shifted to Zone 4 of the lower level outer lanes.

This is the first time ride-share companies will get a full designated zone at the Charlotte airport, Christine said Wednesday.

“When we started the project, ride-share didn’t really even exist,” Christine said. “But now that it does, and it’s such a big component of our operation, we’ve really tried to focus on how we allocate space on the curb.”

The three lanes closest to the terminal curb on the upper level will remain closed, as a storage area during the $600 million terminal lobby expansion project the airport plans to start in December. That project is expected to last four to five years. Once completed, those three lanes will be opened to commercial vehicles.

Construction on the roadway project started in January 2016. The project was funded through passenger facility charge revenues, and included 32,400 tons of concrete and 13,000 tons of asphalt, according to the airport.

When the terminal opened in May 1982, there were three-upper and three lower-level lanes available to the public, according to airport officials. The Charlotte airport hosted more than 46 million passengers in 2018, compared with 23 million in 1998, according to the airport.

Hannah Smoot covers business in Charlotte, focusing on aviation and health care. She previously covered money and power at The Rock Hill Herald in South Carolina. She is a lifelong North Carolinian and graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
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