Anya Anderson, of Eden, kisses her husband, Curtis Anderson, before departing for Russia outside Salt Lake City International Airport on Wednesday, which marked the first anniversary of the opening of Phase 1 of the airport. (Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News)
SALT LAKE CITY – The paper is the gift that marks a year of anniversary, so the management of Salt Lake City International Airport has thought of the perfect gift to commemorate the first year of the year the new airport is operational.
Airport officials were planning to hand out celebratory paper planes to airport staff in honor of Wednesday’s birthday.
But while the airport has become more online over the past year as people return to the skies – nearly tripling the average number of passengers passing through its halls daily since its first week – there is ample evidence that the new airport is not full.
“We’re not done yet,” said airport manager Bill Wyatt, speaking from a third-floor mezzanine as airline passengers walked to and from airport hall A. below.
Some crews are putting the finishing touches on a new TRAX station outside the main terminal, while others are working on a hall extension that will eventually make it easier to get into Hall B – something the airport manager, Bill Wyatt, has probably heard the most comments. .
So when will the construction of the airport be finished? Well, that’s more of a rhetorical question.
“The answer at airports is you really are never done,” Wyatt said. “As soon as you are done, the request results in additional activity.”
Travel – and construction – growing a year later
Travel to and from Salt Lake City International Airport is slowly returning to normal. Wyatt estimates travel is about 90% to 95% of what it was before COVID-19 hit the travel industry. There were only around 7,000 people passing through the airport daily when the new airport went live on September 15, 2020, due to COVID-19 and its impacts on travel. It’s now back to around 20,000 people a day, even hitting 29,000 at one point this year, according to airport officials.
We’ve had, really, the best part of the year to really fix some of the issues that are inevitable with a new install. I think it’s safe to say now that we really have a feel for the place. It works much better.
–Bill Wyatt, Director of Salt Lake City International Airport
This travel delay may have been a blessing. Before COVID-19, airport staff were hoping for a great first day so they could see which areas needed to be addressed. But it ultimately allowed the airport workers to familiarize themselves with their new digs and fix the issues without really affecting travelers.
“We’ve had, really, the best part of the year to really fix some of the issues that are inevitable with a new installation,” Wyatt said. “I think it’s safe to say now that we really have a feel for the place. It works a lot better.”
As travelers boarded the plane, staff members heard comments that helped them improve the airport. One of the main complaints is the distance between halls A and B. Wyatt said it’s ironic because the distance between the two halls is not as long as the walks in the old airport. He suspects that the difference in design, a straight line in a tunnel compared to the old twists and turns of the old airport, creates a psychological belief for travelers that the distance is much longer than in the past.
Nevertheless, the next phase currently underway will contribute to this distance. The teams are currently working on Hall A-East, which will connect the current Halls A and B above ground. The airport plans to hold a “finishing” ceremony, where the last beam of the building is put in place, next month. The first doors to the facility are expected to open in May 2023 while the entire construction project will end in 2024.
Utah Transit Authority is also in the process of completing a new TRAX station just outside the airport. The agency reports that its current bus bridge from a temporary stop near the airport to the stop outside the main terminal will run until October 3. It will be followed by a bus bridge between the airport and UTA 1940 West station from October 4. until October 21 before the opening of the new station.
Long-term future and return to normal
The airport’s long-term plan calls for another hall. The floor plan for Hall C also includes a light rail in the central tunnel that will help connect the three halls without as much walking; However, her future remains unclear for now, according to Wyatt.
There is no specific date for the start of construction of Hall C. On the contrary, this work will begin once the airport reaches some 34 million annual passengers. To put that into context, Wyatt said the airport was handling around 25 million passengers a year just before the pandemic.
It is still unclear when the airport will reach 25 million annual passengers again, let alone that target of 34 million. Airport officials believed they could return to normal volumes this year before the delta variant appeared and disrupted travel again – although to a lesser extent than in 2020, Wyatt explained. He believes the airport will have a better understanding of the resumption of travel after the next ski season, and whether business travel or international travel returns to pre-COVID-19 levels.
“I now think the first kind of normal year will be 2023,” he said. “2022, I think, will be pretty good, but most of what we think is normal is probably 2023.”
This is the right time, as the A-East hall should open slowly.
Airport honored for its green shift
Meanwhile, Salt Lake City executives and airport staff also celebrated the airport’s first anniversary by accepting an award for its green standards. The US Green Building Council has awarded it LEED Gold certification for its efforts in efficiency, water conservation and emissions reduction.
“This is no surprise as our teams have been working intentionally for about a decade to ensure that we are here today to celebrate this,” said Salt Lake City Mayor Erin Mendenhall. “However, getting there is no easy task. This facility is the largest LEED Gold certified airport terminal in the western United States, measured in square feet.
According to airport officials, the “linear” configuration of the airport hall reduces about 15,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases per year, which is roughly equivalent to taking 3,000 cars off the road each year. . Another 4,000 metric tonnes of greenhouse gases are eliminated each year as airlines transition from diesel to electric ground support equipment.
90 charging stations for electric vehicles are also available for employees and passengers. Airport crews also installed a new baggage handling system that staff members can start and stop at any time instead of running it at any time of the day.
“We know that reducing our carbon emissions is so critical not only for our local community but for our entire world, and as much of the mitigation and impact reduction as we can do, we will,” added Mendenhall .
Officials added that the low-flow, sensor-based toilet features have helped the average passenger reduce their water use from over a gallon to about 2.5 gallons. In addition, the mayor said that around 95% of the old airport materials were somehow used towards the new airport instead of going to landfills or incinerators.
Lisa Stanley, director of technical solutions for the US Green Building Council, said its green certification standards have been adopted by all 50 US states and more than 180 countries around the world. She then turned to Mendenhall and the airport workers before handing the airport a plaque honoring their work.
“Standing in the midst of this magnificent new construction, it is immediately clear how your combined efforts have succeeded in moving this project from design and construction to LEED certification,” she said. “I am impressed not only by the beauty of the project, but also by your ability to bring these two large-scale projects to fruition under circumstances that could not have been foreseen ten years ago.”