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COVID-19 could help Salt Lake Airport expansion save $300 million

Construction crews work at the Salt Lake International Airport in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 15, 2017. Photo: Kristin Murphy, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — In a roundabout way, COVID-19 may help save the Salt Lake City airport $300 million on its ongoing expansion project. 

Reduced travel means easier construction

Even though air travel is picking up a bit, the COVID-19 pandemic has reduced the number of passengers going through Salt Lake City International Airport. 

“Typically, at this time of the year we’d be seeing about 23,000 passengers coming through our security checkpoint. Currently, we’re seeing 3,000 to 4,000 passengers,” said airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer.

But that drop in passengers has given the airport an opportunity to save a lot of time and money on the second phase of its expansion project. It adds up to about two years of time and up to $300 million. 

Volmer says it’s easier to tear down concourses and terminals if fewer gates are being used. 

“[Previously] we had to keep our gate count up. But now that we don’t have the same level of passengers, we don’t need to have those gates available. So, we’re looking at tearing down the existing concourses sooner,” Volmer said. 

Salt Lake airport expansion plans

Airport Executive Director Bill Wyatt laid out the revised expansion projections during an airport advisory board meeting on Wednesday. 

The second phase of the expansion project has been more tricky because it requires the demolition of terminals and concourses that have been in heavy use. With fewer passengers due to COVID-19, it becomes easier to tear down buildings and erect new ones. 

“What we’ll be doing is probably tearing down our existing parking garage, the existing terminals and concourses, and then we’ll start building to the east. By doing so, that will save time and money,” he said. 

Salt Lake City International Airport is also on track to open a new terminal and concourse this September.