PROVO — The Provo Municipal Airport is looking to expand from a one-gate, one-terminal, one-airline operation into a 10-gate, two-terminal, multi-airline operation over the next several years.
Phase one of the project, which would build a four-gate terminal, baggage claim and TSA stations, is estimated to cost a little more than $41 million. The structure would be built to expand to 10 gates in the future but would operate with four gates until then.
"We're always excited to be able to provide a more convenient option to people that live in Utah County or south of Salt Lake," said Steve Gleason, airport manager.
Additional gates will help the regional airport bring in more airlines because the airlines tend to want the same time slots each day, something the facility can't offer now with its current operation, according to Gleason.
Allegiant Air is currently the only airline that flies in and out of Provo.
Provo Deputy Mayor Isaac Paxman said the airport could operate with the four gates for several years before expanding to 10.
The Provo City Council unanimously approved a resolution Wednesday to dedicate about $19 million to the project. Earlier this month, Mayor Michelle Kaufusi joined State House Majority Leader Francis Gibson, R-Mapleton, at the Legislature to request $9 million from the Infrastructure and General Government Appropriations Subcommittee.
The city also requested an additional $4.3 million from Utah County and is expected to receive roughly $8 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to build the terminal tarmac, if the other funds are secured.
Paxman said the expansion will benefit the entire county and help accommodate its rapid growth.
"It's not only in Provo's interest," he said. "I think all citizens get a benefit from this."
According to a study by University of Utah's Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute, Utah County is expected to claim 27.8 percent of Utah's population by 2065, only over 1 percent less than Salt Lake County's projected 29.1 percent.
"And this is a critical piece in preparing for that and allowing this region to develop to its full potential," Paxman said. "In one way or another we think everyone living here and around here is benefited by a degree of options and choice."
Gibson noted Utah County's projected growth in his presentation to the appropriations committee at the Legislature as well.
“Utah County is the quickest growing county in the state," he told the committee on Feb. 12.
Kaufusi told the committee it's time to “take it up a notch with our airport."
She added that other city mayors in the county were supportive, as well as county commissioners and big businesses in the area.
"The community seems to be very supportive, there's a lot of interest in this," Paxman agreed. "This won't add any inconvenience for anyone who chooses not to fly out of it. We can't see who really is harmed by this."
The expansion would also provide a boost to the economy, Paxman said.
"This will definitely open up new jobs in the area," he said.
Not only would new airport employees be needed, but additional staffing for TSA and the airlines would bring in new jobs as well, Paxman pointed out. He also said private business, like car rental companies for example, might bring in more jobs as well.
The current terminal building, which is a shared space with TAC Air in a public-private partnership, is only about 6,500 square feet and on average sees one to two flights daily, Gleason said.
A new four-gate terminal would be at least triple the size and will see an increase in daily flights by at least 50 percent, he said.
He also noted the growth will hopefully lead to an increase in destinations offered and an increase in flights.
Gleason said there is no competition between Provo Airport and Salt Lake City International Airport, and there never will be.
"Salt Lake would still be the main airport for Utah and always will be," he said. "We're just providing a convenient option for people in Utah Valley and hopefully taking some cars off the road."
Providing the area with alternative transportation methods is crucial, Gleason added.
"I think it's a necessary step for Utah Valley just as I-15 becomes more and more crowded," he said.
Currently, the project is in the design and planning phases, but if the city receives all the funds, it's estimated the city could break ground as early as next year, according to Gleason.