Salt Lake City Airport seeks approval for extra $350 million for expansion project

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SALT LAKE CITY - An additional $350 million is needed to keep Salt Lake City's airport expansion project on schedule.

The need for additional funding was discovered by airport officials back in early September.

"What happened is that Utah is a very robust climate right now," said Nancy Volmer, a spokeswoman for Salt Lake City International Airport. "There's a lot of construction going on, more than ever. So, the cost of materials has gone up and the cost of labor has gone up."

The newly added costs would now take the airport project budget to a total of $2.9 billion. Volmer said that none of that money will be coming from tax payer dollars.

Nearly 60 percent of the overall costs will be coming from revenue bonds and airline money, and another 15 percent will come from the airport's savings account. Part of the remaining budget comes from a combination of federal grants along with additional fees for airline ticket and rental cars.

Airport officials went to Salt Lake City Council members Tuesday night to ask for the additional funding, explaining they needed the money quickly. Salt Lake City owns and administrates the airport.

"We need to lock down these bids by December 14th," Volmer said. "And if we don’t, it could go up and could be increased costs.”

Despite the fact that tax payer money isn't being spent, Salt Lake City Council Member Charlie Luke had concerns over public perception.

His worry is that the $350 million expansion will be the only thing that stands out, and, given the quick time frame that the council had to approve the budget expansion, he wouldn't have time to explain the action to the public.

"We don’t want to jeopardize the project," Luke said. "But at the same time, it kind of hurts the transparency.”

Speaking to airport officials on Tuesday, he applauded their efforts on the project so far, but added in the future, they need more time to explain the moves to the public.

“We’re very aware of that," Volmer confirmed. "We’re doing everything we can to make sure they are as informed as they can be.”