Airport reconstruction, a year in with more to go

The layout of the new SLC International Airport.
The layout of the new SLC International Airport.

Construction is well underway on the first phase of the $1.8 billion reconstruction of Salt Lake City International Airport’s terminals, concourses and parking garages.

Mike Williams, the Program Manager for Salt Lake City International Airport’s Terminal Redevelopment Program (TRP), updated the Utah Chapter of the Urban Land Institute on May 21 on the status of the TRP and the need for the rebuild.

“This is a replacement facility not an expansion,” said Williams.

A lot has changed since the current airport facility was built over 50 years ago.  The current facility was designed to serve around 10 million annual passengers.  The airport now serves more than twice that amount with 21 million annual passengers.  Security needs have also changed after September 11.

Since the airport was built, SLC has become a major hub airport for Delta, although it was designed for only shorter domestic flights.  The current facility was not built to meet modern earthquake standards.

Construction is underway on the Quick Turn Around facility for rental cars.  The next phase of construction will include a new parking structure and a Gateway Center.  As with the current parking structure, the new structure will be directly to the south of the terminal with a connecting pedestrian bridge.  A new TRAX station will but built adjacent to the Gateway Center, and directly in front of the main terminal.

Map of the new renovated SLC International Airport.
Map of the new renovated SLC International Airport.

The new terminal will be built directly west of the current terminal.  The new terminal and west concourse will be built simultaneously.  After the new terminal and concourse are completed, construction will begin on the east concourse.

The new airport will have 73 gates, 13 less than the current facility.  While the new airport will have less gates, the new facility will be able to handle more flights and passengers as many of the gates in the E wing of the current airport are only equipped for smaller, less efficient planes.

The new terminal will be three levels.  The first level will provide curbside passenger drop-off for taxis and buses and international baggage claim.

Level Two will be 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.

While the central purpose of the airport renovation is to make SLC more efficient, the renovations will also build an airport that is unique to Utah.

According to Williams the new airport will be designed to look like Utah, 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.

“Once you are in the facility you are going to experience the mountains around you,” said Williams. “We think that once this idea of the Canyon inside the facility gets fully developed that it will be something  unique and remind people of Salt Lake.”

Airport officials promise that a new airport will benefit the local economy.  According to an economic input analysis of the airport, the 12 year period of the Terminal Redevelopment will have a $3.6 billion economic impact, including 37,283 full-time jobs, $1.2 billion in wage income and $2.0 billion added to the GDP.

Construction of the new terminal and west concourse is expected to be completed in 2019.  The east concourse is anticipated to be completed in 2022.

Rendering of the new SLC International Airport.
Rendering of the new SLC International Airport.
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