Officials at the Salt Lake City International Airport say the situation wasn’t all that safe and it wasn’t secure.
“You would see beer trucks, pop trucks and food trucks and all kinds of other trucks driving back and forth from the gate where they entered the airfield to the terminal” to make deliveries to concourse restaurants and stores, said airport director Bill Wyatt.
“That is not an optimal situation,” he added. “You don’t really know who the driver is. ... Driving on the airport itself can be a very dangerous experience and it’s not something that we ordinarily like to see.”
The airport held a grand opening Tuesday for a new facility that will change all that, called the Central Receiving and Distribution Center. It comes just in time for the Sept. 15 opening of the first phase of the new $4.1 billion airport, which has essentially been built on top of and to the side of the existing airport.
“Every good that goes into the secure side of the airport will eventually be processed and screened through this facility,” Wyatt said. “This year, we’ll have 58 [new] restaurants and shops that will be coming online over a period of time. All of them will be served from this facility.”
That includes using X-ray machines to examine everything, and reloading goods onto trucks operated by a new contractor, Bradford Air Logistics. It operates similar receiving and distribution centers at 20 other U.S. airports and at London’s Heathrow.
Bradford’s trucks “will be driven by people who are typically out on the airfield every single day,” Wyatt said. “They know what to look for. They know how to operate.”
The new center is in a refurbished warehouse-style building on the airport campus, where the interior was remodeled and new equipment added at a cost of $5.7 million.
Wyatt said officials decided to build the facility as part of the new airport project because aviation security “is getting tighter, and it’s getting more sophisticated and it’s becoming more important.”
Benjamin Richter, co-CEO and founder of Bradford Air Logistics, said another benefit is that passengers driving to the airport “no longer have to commingle with commercial traffic that we’ve rerouted” on service roads to the new facility, “hopefully creating a better experience.”
Officials say the new system should also reduce emissions from hundreds of weekly delivery trucks.
Richter said his company also is honored to participate in the broader $4.2 billion project, which he said “might be considered the eighth wonder of the world — building one airport right on top of another.”
Airport officials also announced that all of the airport’s excess food supplies will be donated to the Salt Lake City Mission. Restaurants and concessionaires will bring still edible food to a storage cooler, which Bradford will check daily and deliver to the mission.
Salt Lake City Council member James Rogers said the grand opening on Tuesday “is the first of hopefully very many dedications to come for Salt Lake City International.”
The first phase of the new airport opens in a month with a new terminal, concourse, parking garage and other facilities. In October, a second concourse is scheduled to open.
Last year before COVID-19, the airport served about 26 million passengers — but was designed to handle only 10 million.