Last week's approval by Denver voters to annex some land that will lead to construction of a $3 billion airport will help the Salt Lake International Airport rather than hurt it as some believe, the airport director said Tuesday.
Louis Miller told the Board of Governors of the Salt Lake Area Chamber of Commerce that some airlines' hub operations at the Denver airport provide good competition to operations at the Salt Lake airport and everyone will benefit.Miller said Denver needs a new airport and he fully supports the plans to build one.
Meanwhile, Miller provided the Board of Governors with a briefing on the Salt Lake airport master plan that was updated in 1981 and currently is being updated again because of the tremendous growth in airline traffic at the airport.
Miller said $175 has been spent in the past 5 years to expand the airport and he expects a similar amount to be spent in the next 5 years on expanded concourses, a parking terrace, a west runway and related facilities. He stressed that none of the money will come from the taxpayers because the construction is financed through user fees and revenue bonds that are retired through airport operations.
"It is possible that we could spend a total of between $750 million and $1 billion in the next 20 years on the airport," he said.
Miller said the master plan needs updating every several years because actual use has outstripped projections and now Salt Lake International is the 25th busiest airport in the United States. Because the airport is so vital to Utah's economy, every attempt must be made to update the facilities.
Noting that an "airplane operation" consists of one landing and one takeoff, Miller said the master plan projects 210,00 operations annually by the year 2000 or 80 operations per hour.
The master plan projects that if nothing is done to update the airport facilities, flights could be delayed for up to one hour by the year 2000, Miller said.
In answer to a question from University of Utah Presidents Chase N. Peterson regarding an article quoting Delta officials about their hub operation not meeting expectations, Miller said the growth hasn't been as fast as projected, but it has been steady.
He said a few years ago there was non-stop service to 29 cities from Salt Lake City, but now there is non-stop service to 65 American cities.
Fred S, Ball, chamber president, said he talked to Delta Air Lines officials and they are very pleased with the hub operation at Salt Lake International.
Peterson said the necessity of a good airport came to light recently when officials from a company involved in the construction of a new building on the U. of U. campus flew into Salt Lake City. They came from various parts of the country and were able to arrive in town within minutes of each other, and that was important in their decision to pay for the building, Peterson said.