Wednesday, July 23, 2014 1:00 AM
By Ben Mutzabaugh, USA Today -- Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC) is getting a major overhaul.
Work is now underway on a $1.8 billion upgrade that includes a new terminal that will give fliers sweeping views of the nearby Wasatch mountain range. Local and airport officials predict the transformation of the airport will make SLC one of the nation's most-efficient airports.
The overhaul also will be a substantial one, with the project completely replacing the existing terminal by the time it's completed early next decade.
"It's a brand new airport," said Maureen Riley, executive director of the Salt Lake City Department of Airports.
What's more, say Riley and other officials, is that the overhaul was desperately needed at the 50-year facility that planners never anticipated becoming one of the USA's major airline hubs. The airport is now the chief western hub for Delta, the nation's third-biggest carrier. Southwest and – more recently – Alaska Airlines also have a significant presence there.
"We need today a modern and efficient airport that can serve not only Salt Lake City but the entire intermountain region," Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker said at a groundbreaking ceremony.
The current SLC design was meant to handle about 10 million passengers a year, thought the airport now sees twice that number. The new design anticipates up to 30 million annual passengers by 2034, according to The Salt Lake Tribune.
As for that new design, The Associated Press says it "trades in the current three terminals for a single broad one and is scheduled to open in two pieces: the first half in 2019, and the second in 2022. It incorporates three levels, with one designated exclusively for customs and international travel. Another will hold a lounge, conference and meeting space."
The Tribune adds "the planned airport will have fewer gates — 72 compared to the present 86 — but will be capable of handling more passengers and aircraft, Riley said. About 30 of the present gates are dedicated to smaller, commuter aircraft."
Airlines are picking up about half the tab of the project, according to AP. And, of the airlines' share, Delta – by far the dominant carrier at SLC – will cover about 80%, says Holden Shannon, Delta's SVP of corporate real estate.
"This is a really big deal to have the entire airport be redone," Shannon tells AP.
"This is the core of our Western flight service," Shannon adds to the Tribune, speaking about SLC's importance to Delta. "The new airport will allow us to up-gage. It will be more suitable to larger planes."