The first phase of the Provo Airport expansion could break ground by the end of this year, as the project to add four gates to the airport is now waiting only on $9 million in funding from the state Legislature.
The Utah County Commission approved $4.3 million in funds for the airport project Tuesday morning, from the Tourism, Recreation, Cultural and Convention (TRCC) tax fund, which is a tax collected on things like hotel stays and restaurants, and is fed directly back into increasing tourism in the county.
The first phase of the expansion project, which would build a new terminal at the Provo Airport with four gates, was requested by Airport Manager Steve Gleason at a January Provo Municipal Council meeting. Gleason told the council that without a new terminal, it’s impossible to add new destinations or multiple flights to the same destinations with the current, 6,000-square-foot terminal. The current airport has only one gate, making it impossible to handle multiple aircrafts.
The complete expansion plan calls for 10 gates and a 70,000-square-foot terminal. The first phase will bring four new gates and about 40,000 square feet of new terminal space, baggage claim and TSA stations.
The cost for phase one of the project is estimated at about $41.8 million, with a breakout of cost being $8 million in FAA grants, $19 million of Provo funds, $9 million from the state of Utah and $4.3 million from Utah County.
Provo has moved around some capital funding priorities to accelerate this project, and has been approved for the FAA grant. Getting approved for the FAA grant sped up the timeline on the project, said Provo Deputy Mayor Isaac Paxman, because there is a two-year window to use that funding. The project was already in the city’s long-term plan, but Paxman said starting that two-year clock created incentive to expedite the project.
Now, with the county funding in place, the expansion waits only on $9 million in state funding moving through the Utah Legislature.
Senate Bill 268, which includes the $9 million in state funding for the airport, was passed through the Utah Senate Monday. It now heads to the Utah House for consideration.
Paxman said on condition of getting the state funding, which looks promising, Provo could be breaking ground on the project as soon as this fall, with a ribbon cutting as early as 2020.
The Utah County Commissioners were unanimous in their support of using the funding for the airport project, which they said will help promote tourism and economic development throughout the county.
While expressing his support for the use of funds, Commissioner Tanner Ainge pointed out that this money is not coming out of the county’s general fund, but is funding specifically allocated to promote tourism in the county.
Commissioner Nathan Ivie said it was a worthwhile project with far-reaching benefits, while also noting that the project will bring more people into the county, thereby replenishing the fund the money was taken from.
The use of funding for the airport project had also been approved by the Utah County tourism tax advisory board, who advises on the best use of TRCC funds. Commissioner Bill Lee said it was “rare” to see a group of business leaders so excited about a project. Lee said in addition to economic benefits for the county of having a larger airport, it would also keep people from having to drive to Salt Lake City to fly somewhere, keeping cars off the roads and helping to improve air quality.
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi thanked the commission, saying it would be fantastic to have a regional airport in Provo.
“As I’ve been telling all the mayors, it’s not the Provo airport, it’s the regional airport,” Kaufusi said. “It’s your airport, it’s our airport, it’s all the communities in Utah County, and that’s how I hope we all look at it.”
In a press release sent after the meeting, Kaufusi said the decision to fund this terminal is “the kind of forward thinking action we need.”
“For decades to come, Utahn’s will reap the benefits of the vision our Commissioners have shown today. I cannot thank them enough,” Kaufusi said in the release.
The release also said the time is right for a multi-gate airport terminal in Utah Valley, with rapid population growth expected, including more than 1 million additional residents by 2065.
“Experts indicate that the annual economic impact of a daily flight into the regional airport is about $15 million to the surrounding region,” the press release said. “So, a multi-gate terminal will do much more than add a convenient travel option. It will generate jobs, hotel stays and more.”