Brian Wilkinson / 27 April, 2016

By Lee Davidson, The Salt Lake Tribune

Salt Lake City International Airport just finished the first $90 million phase of its $1.8 billion terminal redevelopment project — but it is for facilities that most travelers will never see.

The airport built four new remote service buildings for rental cars in what had been the old economy parking lot and completed 3,000 replacement parking spaces in a more distant area.

“Most people don’t even know this new facility is here because you can’t see it,” said Mike Williams, program director of the project. “But around the middle of this year, some of the entrance and exit roads to the airport will begin to be moved.”

Nine old buildings that had been used by rental-car companies will be demolished. That will allow relocation of airport roads, doubling the size of garage parking and construction of a replacement terminal.

“It’s a big milestone,” airport spokeswoman Nancy Volmer said of the just-completed phase. But it’s 5 percent of the full terminal project, expected to be finished in 2020.

“It shows we still have a long way to go,” Williams said. “Everything is phased because we’re building the new airport on top of the existing airport. So you have to build new facilities so that you can demolish the existing facilities and build the next phase of the program.”

Airport officials took reporters on a tour of the newest buildings Monday.

“These facilities are really the business side of getting vehicles ready to rent,” Williams said.

One huge building is shared by all the airport’s car-rental companies to clean, refuel, wash and otherwise prepare cars for rental — and store many of them until just before they are needed for pickup. People who rent cars will still do that and pick them up across the street from the current and future terminals.

“The convenience will always be there,” Williams said.

The new such building includes 64 fuel pumps with 75,000 gallons of storage for gasoline. It has 14 car-wash units that recycle 85 percent of the water used.

So far in March, rental companies performed 75,000 car washes there, Volmer said, meaning they also rented cars about that many times.

That two-level building’s roof is the size of four football fields and stores up to 900 cars for quick transfer to the parking garage where people pick up rentals.

The new phase also includes three other buildings for light maintenance, including oil and tire changes and other mechanical and body work. Each of those buildings can also store 500 cars.

“What this allows us to do is knock down the old car-rental facilities,” Williams said. “Then we’ll start building the new roads and the new parking deck — which will be twice as large as the existing deck — and then the new terminal building.”

The car-rental companies operating at the airport are Avis/Payless, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National/Alamo and Thrifty/Firefly.

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