SALT LAKE CITY — Construction is set to begin Friday on a new project that will take the 20 million people who fly through Utah each year to new heights.
A $1.8 billion, three-story terminal and linear concourse will be under construction for the next eight to 10 years to replace the current Salt Lake City International Airport with a new airport that highlights Utah’s beauty and cuts down on energy costs.
Plans call for a new parking facility, a new terminal and half of the concourse to be completed by 2019. The project is set to end by summer 2022, after the existing terminals and parking garage are demolished.
Mike Williams, director of the Salt Lake City International Airport terminal redevelopment program, said the construction zone will be southwest of the existing facility to help minimize the impact to passengers.
“Our goal is just to make it seamless so you can just get to the airport like you do today,” Williams said. “It’s a challenging project, but it’s an exciting project, and so you just have to take one day at a time. There are going to be new challenges every day.”
Taxpayer dollars are not being used on the project, and travelers won’t have to worry about inflated airfares, said Maureen Riley, executive director of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports.
“The airport system in the United States is really funded by user fees, rental cars, airlines (and) ground transportation providers. All those users of the airport contribute to the revenue system,” Riley said. “We also get money from the federal government in the form of grants.”
The airport project is expected to generate nearly 24,000 full-time jobs and $1 billion in income for Utahns, according to airport officials. The airport redevelopment is designed to accommodate an estimated 1.5 percent growth in passengers on a yearly basis and any future runway expansion projects.
“On our master plan we do have a fourth runway very far into the future, maybe 25-30. … We can expand to the east or west to the terminal itself, and that’s very hard to do with the horseshoe facility that we have today,” Riley said.
The new terminal is also structured to support the thousands of people who come to pick up visiting relatives or returning missionaries for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints with a designated area for passenger greetings and farewells.
“When I got to Salt Lake, I was just amazed by the number of people that come out to the airport,” Williams said, “so the airport addressed that by developing an area that can hold several hundred people to meet people coming in or leaving for a flight.”
San Francisco-based HOK was selected in 2009 to design the new contemporary terminal and linear concourse, which will consist of 38 gates and cover six city blocks.
Utahns also offered their opinions on what the new airport should include after a public comment process.
“Many people are very interested in seeing the natural beauty of Utah being brought into the facility,” Riley said, “and the other thing, no surprise, is people are very interested in making sure technology and Wi-Fi is a big part of the new design.”
Glass walls will extend from the floor to the ceiling, offering visitors breathtaking views of the Wasatch Front while they wait at their gates, Williams said.
“There was a lot of feedback that we should incorporate as much light as possible, so we have a lot of glass and a lot of views of the outdoors,” he said. “Utah’s a beautiful place, and you want to be able to see it.”
Airport officials said the new facility will create a sense of place while incorporating additional sustainable practices, products and technology.
Airports have a unfortunate history of being energy hogs, Williams said, so the new facility will cut down on energy costs by 30 percent.
“It is a very ambitious goal,” he said. “It is a challenge with all of the process loads, all the moving sidewalks and the escalators and elevators and baggage system, but we think we have a good plan to get there.”
While the effort that goes into a project such as this is vast, the end result will be more than rewarding, Williams said. The new airport should support Utahns and the state’s growing tourism for years to come, he said.