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Scott G Winterton, KSL

Salt Lake City’s airport rebuild soars past $4 billion

By Katie McKellar, KSL | Posted - Jan. 18, 2020 at 5:42 p.m.



SALT LAKE CITY — The massive redevelopment of Salt Lake City International Airport has expanded in scope — and so has its price tag, now at nearly $4.1 billion.

The increased price, up from $3.6 billion, is mostly because the project is growing in “scale” thanks to several additions made at the request of airlines, mainly Delta, to accommodate even more growth than previously expected, said Bill Wyatt, executive director of the airport.

“It’s gotten bigger,” Wyatt told KSL recently. “These are things we’re adding with the support of, and, in many cases, the request of our customers who are paying for it.”

The changes include a bigger Delta Air Lines Sky Club, expanded by an additional 9,000 square feet, a bigger immigrations and customs area, and a secure hallway for international passengers.

“Delta and the other carriers began to realize that the business was growing faster than anybody had anticipated, and we needed to react to that,” Wyatt said.

This means Salt Lake City’s airport will be bigger and better, Wyatt said, but not at a cost to taxpayers.

Rather, the increased “scope and scale” of the project will be paid for by the “growth in passenger volume” and by the airlines.

Today, the Salt Lake airport serves more than 26 million passengers a year in a building that was built more than 50 years ago and designed to handle half as many travelers, according to airport officials.

Twenty years from now, the airport is projected to serve 38 million passengers, according to a presentation to the airport board last week by Steve Domino, senior northwest mountain region aviation planner with RS&H, a national firm working on the airport’s master plan.

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Wyatt said the additions to the airport project to accommodate growth have been discussed among airport officials, the Salt Lake City Council and the airport board over the past year. The total budget impact was outlined in a presentation to the Airport Advisory Board on Tuesday.

The project is being financed from about $1.5 billion in cash from the airport, while the rest is debt financed, according to Wyatt. The increased budget was approved by the Salt Lake City Council in the fall.

The first phase of the project is scheduled to open to the public on Sept. 20, and it’s on schedule, Wyatt said.

“We’re very excited,” he said. “We are on time.

At the project’s groundbreaking in 2014, the first phase was priced at about $1.8 billion. Later, airport and city officials expanded the project to include a north concourse, in addition to the new terminal and a south concourse.

Airport officials have also sought budget increases to accommodate soaring costs thanks to an explosive construction market in recent years. While Wyatt said Utah’s booming construction market — as several big projects are underway statewide, including the building of a new Utah State Prison — has been a “factor” along with steel tariffs, he said the “bulk” of the budget increases have been related to the project’s expansion.

“I think people are going to just appreciate the fact that the new airport is sized to the marketplace here,” Wyatt said. “It’s going to accommodate this region so much better than the existing facility, which has done a great job but it’s just been overwhelmed.”

Katie McKellar

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