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Coronavirus slowdown speeds up airport construction

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SALT LAKE CITY — Salt Lake City has been in the middle of building a new airport. It was always a challenge to do that in the same location as the current airport while fully operational. Because of less traffic, a lot more can be done.

Even though so much has changed, many people still get giddy about flying.

“I love flying and I love airports,” said Marysa Ryan with a smile as big as a Boeing 777. “I love the whole feeling of an adventure, to start.”

Ryan, who lives in Monticello, couldn’t wait to visit her friend in Washington state. After just a few minutes inside a terminal at Salt Lake International Airport, she knew things were very different.

“I just can’t wait for this to be over and be done,” she said.

Coronavirus has changed a lot about flying.

At Salt Lake City International, though, coronavirus is helping a project in an unexpected way.

Bill Wyatt, Salt Lake International’s executive director, says since passenger traffic has drastically decreased, it has enabled plans for the new airport currently under construction to be done faster – and cheaper.

“Up to $300 million,” said Wyatt.

Phase one of the new airport is still set to open September 15th this year, as planned. Originally, phase two would use parts of the old airport and parts of the new airport.

Now, because of fewer passengers and less airplane traffic, the old airport can be torn down all at once.

“This eliminates a lot of the complexity and allows us to save a lot of money, but to be honest, the other thing is that the bidding for construction projects has changed dramatically,” said Wyatt.

For passengers and taxpayers, it means a big project will potentially finish under budget and sooner – just about as unusual as anything else this year.

“That’s amazing,” said Ryan. “That’s a great savings for everybody involved.”

Overall, the airport expansion could be done as much as two years sooner because of these new plans.

If traffic picks up faster than expected, the airport can park planes away from the terminal and then bus in passengers.

However, Wyatt thinks it could be at least three years before things are like they were just three months ago.

“Within a period of about three weeks, we went from an average of probably 27,000 passengers arriving at our front door every day to about 1,500,” said Wyatt.

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Alex Cabrero
Alex Cabrero has been reporting for KSL-TV for nearly two decades. He has covered a variety of stories over the years from a variety of places, but he particularly enjoys sharing stories that show what's good in the world.


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