The new Salt Lake City International Airport marked its first year of operation with paper airplanes — since paper is the traditional first-year anniversary gift — and a new LEED Gold certification.
Mayor Erin Mendenhall and airport Executive Director Bill Wyatt held a news conference Wednesday to accept the honor from the U.S. Green Building Council. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design rating recognizes eco-friendly features at the new terminal, including recycled construction waste, electrical vehicle charging stations and low-flow water fixtures.
Wyatt also noted all the turbulence the new airport faced in its inaugural year, particularly slow traffic on opening day due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“When we opened a year ago, we had about 7,000 people at the front door,” Wyatt said. “Today, we’re pretty close to 20,000.”
The airport boss added that means the amount of air travelers passing through Salt Lake City is close to 90% of normal.
During the past year, the airport also has screened and loaded 3.3 million bags through its luggage system. And it continues to grow.
The new TRAX station is set to open next month, making it easier to get to and from the airport and downtown Salt Lake City.
Construction crews have installed 993 steel pipes for the east wing of Concourse A, which will open with five new gates in May 2023 and be completed by the end of that year. That means more food options as well.
The large central tunnel that will connect the terminal building with Concourse B will open fall 2024, shortening the walk travelers repeatedly grumble about.
And while the new airport is much bigger and sometimes confounding to navigate for passengers, that part of why it has earned environmental accolades. The layout cuts the time airplanes idle and taxi, reducing an estimated 15,000 metric tons of greenhouse gases, according to airport officials.
“We know reducing our carbon emissions is so critical for not only our local community but for our world,” Mendenhall said.
The mayor added that the airport is in the process of slashing another 4,000 metric tons of emissions by transitioning ground support tug vehicles from diesel fuel to electric.
“That’s ... the equivalent of removing 900 vehicles from the road annually,” Mendenhall said. “These decisions and hundreds of others have led us to this point. I’m so thrilled that we’re continuing this commitment as we go through the construction of Concourse A east, the central tunnel and the other improvements yet to come.”