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Demand, and the lure of Cabo and Cancún, have Provo looking to expand its airport — again

The entrance sign outside of the new Provo Airport terminal, Feb. 6, 2023.
Curtis Booker
The entrance sign outside of the new Provo Airport terminal, Feb. 6, 2023.

It wasn't long ago that the Provo Airport opened its new terminal. Last July, city leaders welcomed passengers to the more than 70,000 square-foot terminal and four passenger loading gates.

The goal was to accommodate the ever-growing demand for commercial airline service in the heart of Utah County with flights from Allegiant and Breeze airlines.

Fast forward to Feb. 1, 2023. During her annual State of the City address, Mayor Michelle Kaufusi said the airport is already at capacity.

"We knew the demand would come. We just had no idea it was going to come so fast."

Since opening the terminal, Airport Director Brian Torgersen said they've had over 300,000 passengers pass through.

"We forecast this year will be up around 750 to 800,000 passengers. And we just expect that to increase over time."

As a result, Kaufusi said the airlines are now eager to provide additional routes to international destinations such as Cabo and Cancún. However, this means the airport would need to expand, again.

The price tag for the expansion? Roughly $62.5 million.

"We are trying to get federal funding, state, county and [Mountainland Association of Governments] funding. We're trying to get all our partners to come back in and help us," Kaufusi said.

Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi sits for an interview in her office at city hall, Feb. 7, 2023.
Nicole Martin
Courtesy Provo City
Provo Mayor Michelle Kaufusi sits for an interview in her office at city hall, Feb. 7, 2023.

Funding for the new $55 million terminal came from the Federal Aviation Administration, the state of Utah, the federal government, Utah County, the Mountainland Association of Governments and Provo City.

The terminal has four gates although Kaufusi said it was built with the infrastructure for 10.

"The data shows if we can get three to four more gates up, then we will be able to meet the international component and then ask from other airlines that are asking to come here and fly out of Provo," Kaufusi said.

In addition, the airport would build a federal inspection station, which is for necessary customs. Kaufusi hopes for support in Congress from Rep. Burgess Owens, who was recently selected to serve on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

While the funding won't come easy, the mayor believes the impact of the expansion will be felt outside of Utah County. She points to boosting the statewide economy with an estimated $130.8 million in spending and the creation of over 1,000 jobs.

The new expansion would mean more flights out of Provo, but Torgersen said they don't get a lot of complaints about commercial aircraft noise — mainly due to the air traffic pattern which departs and lands over Utah Lake.

"We do have some maintenance and repair operations at the airport that if they're doing, you know, run-ups or engine checks or something late at night, we'll get some complaints that way,” he said. “But that doesn't really have anything to do with the commercial traffic."

The expansion is still in the early stages, but Kaufusi hopes to cut the ribbon sometime in the next three years.

"We don't quit, right? That's the only rule is we don't quit. We just keep swinging for the fences. And at the end of my time as mayor, if we didn't get what we wanted or set out to get, that's OK, because at least my employees, the citizens of Provo will know that this mayor, she swung for the fences."

Curtis Booker is KUER’s growth, wealth and poverty reporter in Central Utah.
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