Provo City calls on Legislature to contribute $9 million towards expansion of its airport

(Sahalie Donaldson | Tribune file photo) Provo -- Steve Gleason, manager of the Provo Airport, talks about airport expansion as he makes a budget presentation to the Provo City Council, Jan. 22, 2019.

Provo • City Council members this week unanimously declared their support for expanding the Provo Airport and are calling on the state Legislature to contribute $9 million toward the project.

The City council has at the same time pledged to secure $19 million for the expansion without raising taxes by delaying already planned construction projects and using those funds for the airport, said Deputy Mayor Issac Paxman.

In January, Paxman told The Tribune that the Provo Airport needs a second terminal if officials want to expand the facility and utilize an $8 million federal grant.

The grant was given to help construct a new tarmac, but to use the funds, airport officials would need to secure terminal funding, an estimated $14.5 million, Paxman said. The airport will forfeit the federal funds if it doesn’t use the money within a few years.

The Provo Airport’s sole terminal is about 6,000 square feet, but it could eventually be expanded to 70,000. Provo City already owns the land where the expansion would take place.

Paxman said the city’s long-term master plan calls for a 10-gate terminal. For now, officials are looking to build four gates and a baggage claim and security area large enough to service everything for a 10-gate terminal down the road.

“Our ask of the state is for them to realize the opportunity we have here and contribute,” Paxman said. “Utah County is projected to be the largest county in not too many decades. We’ve got the two largest universities in the state, we’ve got Sundance, Silicon Slopes — there are just a lot who would be served by this.”

The University of Utah’s Kem C. Gardner Policy Institute has projected that Utah County will add more than 1 million residents by 2065 to reach a population of 1.6 million, accounting for 37 percent of the state’s growth.

Paxman said legislators are listening and supportive, however funding for the airport is not currently on the Legislature’s top priority list.

He said he hopes lawmakers will act this session, but if they don’t Provo officials intend to keep trying and carry the momentum over into the next session.

“Economically, studies have shown that for every daily flight at an airport of this nature you are looking at over a $10 million dollar economic impact on the surrounding area annually,” Paxman said. “As we add more flights, there will be a great economic impact to the area and that is good for the whole state.”

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