Success breeds success.
Or it can create a bottleneck that drives everybody crazy.
Hope that Salt Lake City International Airport will be an example of the former and not — like, say, a great many highway projects here and elsewhere — the latter comes from news that construction has begun on a $1.8 billion project to replace the airport’s aging terminals and other structures with a new, less congested, more energy-efficient structure.
The good news is that the new airport will, once everybody lives through some necessary construction snarl over the next eight years, leave us with an airport that will better handle the growing number of flights to and from our city, as well as improve our cultural and financial connections with other parts of the country and the world.
The better news is that the project is being paid for by something that is about as close to free money as anything ever gets.
Like most airport facilities in major cities, the Salt Lake City upgrade is being paid for out of pots of money that do not, at least directly, reach into the pocket of the general taxpayer. The local share will be paid out of the taxes and fees charged to the airlines that use the facility, those who rent cars there, who buy aviation fuel there, etc. And the federal share, likewise, is largely a user-funded affair that comes from charges added to airline tickets, fuel and the like.
Those fees may be among the most gladly paid charges levied by any government anywhere in the history of the world. Airlines and their frequent flying passengers tend to know the value keeping airports up to date, helping to ensure on-time arrivals and departures and minimize the hours spent standing in line.
All that as Congress is incapable of figuring out how to pay for roads and bridges all across the country.
A consultant’s study ordered up by the airport has calculated a figure of $3.3 billion for the amount of money the airport work will contribute to the local economy, based on the economic truism that money spent on such things cycles through the local economy many times after it is spent on such things as worker wages and construction supplies.
And that doesn’t even count all the additional money that will be spent by the increased number of tourists and business travelers who will come from ever-more-further afield to work and play here.
Mayor Ralph Becker and the airport’s managers deserve credit for pushing a bold vision for this major boost to the city’s, and the state’s, economic engine.
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