Airport construction passes halfway point

The Revised plans for the Salt Lake City International Airport redevelopment. Image courtesy Salt Lake City public documents.

Construction of the first phase of the new Salt Lake City International Airport has passed the halfway point.  The first phase consists of a new consolidated terminal, south concourse, parking garage, gateway welcome center and the recently completed rental car facility.

The first phase is expected to be completed in 2020, six years after construction began in the spring of 2014.

A lot has changed in the three years since airport redevelopment began.  A hot economy and surge of multifamily housing have spread construction crews thin across the region, making building more expensive for everyone.  The project was initially expected to cost $1.8 billion but is now estimated to cost $2.9 billion.

Besides rising construction costs, the higher price tag is also because the west side of the proposed north concourse is now being built simultaneously with the main terminal and west side of the south concourse.  Airport officials plan to build the two eastern ends of the concourses for both the north and south terminals after the construction of the terminal and the western end of both concourses are completed.  Both concourses will be connected by a pedestrian tunnel.

The new airport will have over 70 gates and will be built to LEED Gold standards, making it one of the most energy efficient airports in the country.  The new main terminal will be three levels and will be designed to reflect Utah’s geography, with interior and exterior materials intended to resemble the variable terrains that create a sense of place unique to Utah.  Included in the main terminal will be an artificial canyon, resembling the canyons of Southern Utah.

The first level will provide curbside passenger drop-off for taxis and buses and international baggage claim.

Level two will have the main entrance, with a consolidated TSA security checkpoint, domestic baggage claim, passenger pick-up and domestic baggage claim.  Unique to Utah, the second level will include a lounge area dubbed the “Meeters and Greeters” lounge.  The area will accommodate up to 400 people and is designed to allow welcome groups for service men and LDS missionaries to gather without disrupting general airport operations.

The third level will include curbside passenger drop-off and airline ticketing and check-in counters.

Besides rising construction costs, the ongoing construction project will require additional workers.  According to airport officials, they have employed 700 construction workers so far but will eventually need up to 2,000 workers.  Employing that many new workers could prove challenging as the industry is already underemployed.

Another potential deviation from the airport’s original redevelopment plans is how the light rail line will reach the new south terminal.  The original plan was to elevate the rail line to connect to the main terminal’s second floor, but elevating the rail is expected to cost $65 million.  Airport and UTA officials are currently exploring extending the Green TRAX line at the street level at an estimated cost of $15 million.

No local tax money will be used for the Terminal Redevelopment Program.  The project is being financed through federal grants, airport user fees, contributions from the airlines, airport income reserves and general airport revenue bonds.

The terminal and western portion of the south concourse are expected to be completed in 2020 with the north concourse opening a year later in 2021. The eastern portion of both concourses are expected to open in 2024.

Aerial rendering of the new SLC terminal. Image courtesy of the Salt Lake International Airport.
Rendering of the new terminal. Courtesy of the Salt Lake International Airport staff.
Rendering of the new terminal. Courtesy of the Salt Lake International Airport staff.
Rendering of the new terminal and Gateway Center.
Rendering of the new terminal at the SLC International Airport.
Rendering of the new terminal at the SLC International Airport.

Posted by Isaac Riddle

Isaac Riddle grew up just outside of Salt Lake City, Utah. He has a BA in English literature from the University of Utah and a Masters of Journalism from Temple University. Isaac has written for Next City, The Philadelphia Public School Notebook and Salt Lake City Weekly. Before embarking on a career in journalism, Isaac taught High School English in the Kensington neighborhood of Philadelphia. Isaac is the founder of Building Salt Lake and can be reached at