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Detour ahead: Salt Lake airport debuts new exit road

SALT LAKE CITY — Visitors and drivers heading out of Utah’s largest airport will now have to experience a new detour to exit that will become the permanent road out of the Salt Lake City International Airport.

Starting Friday, Terminal Drive exiting the airport will take a significant detour that will redirect traffic on the road between the new parking garage and the central terminal. The roadway change is necessary to give construction crews the space needed to install two spiral roads that drivers will use to exit the new airport parking garage, said Nancy Volmer, marketing and communications director for the airport.

The new exit road will be in place until the new airport opens for business in September 2020.

“We’re taking off a third of a mile and going through what will be the new terminal,” she said. “This will be the new exit road for Terminal Drive.”

The new road is accessible through a detour that is set up adjacent to the longtime exit road. Drivers will turn right shortly after leaving the passenger terminal area for drop-offs then travel under what will be the new departure road once the first phase of the new airport is completed in the fall of next year. The multilane roadway will allow drivers to bypass the old exit road and lead to a more efficient airport experience for visitors in the future, Volmer said.

“It’ll be more convenient because it will be a third of a mile shorter, and when the new airport opens, we’ll have two roadways — an elevated roadway for drop-offs and (this new) roadway that is more for pickups.”

She said the new configuration will reduce curbside traffic congestion and make for a better experience for all visitors.

“Our airport was built for 10 million passengers and we see more than 26 million passengers now,” she said. “So there is a lot of congestion curbside. With this new roadway opening and (when) the elevated roadway opens, it will really help alleviate a lot of that congestion we see today.”

She said the $3.6 billion airport redevelopment will address a lot of the congestion issues currently experienced at the airport. Next week, the airport will change the roadway access to the “pay lanes” where drivers pay for short- and long-term parking.

The first phase of airport remodel will include a central terminal, the west end of two concourses and a parking garage. The initial phase is scheduled for completion in fall 2020, with the second phase scheduled to be finished in late 2024.

“We’re building a larger airport so there will be more room, new shops and a different configuration as far as the concourses go,” Volmer said. “The new configuration is a linear configuration that allows more aircraft to move in and out. It’s just a more efficient design.”

When the project is finally completed, the traveling public will experiencing a totally new airport, she noted.

“A lot of people think we’re renovating or expanding, but we’re actually building an entirely new airport,” she said. “This will be the first new airport to open in the United States in the 21st century.”

The last new hub airport to open was Denver International Airport in 1995, she said.

Volmer said the new Salt Lake City International Airport will include many new features such as upgraded security requirements as well as enhanced seismic standards.

“So it will be not only convenient, but it will have a lot of features the traveling public will really enjoy,” she said.