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"Provo airport considers options for growth"
Saturday, March 11, 2006
Provo airport considers options for growth
BY HEIDI TOTH
The Provo (UT) Daily Herald
It's 8 a.m. in Utah County and Interstate 15 has slowed to a crawl.
By the Point of the Mountain cars are inching along, changing lanes to get a
few car-lengths ahead only to find themselves stopped again just as traffic
in another lane starts moving.
The commute is frustrating anyway, but throw in a rigid deadline like a
flight taking off and the Utah Countyian on the way to Salt Lake
International Airport has a problem.
The 50-mile trip can take a couple of hours and ruin a day's plans, which is
all the more reason, Provo Mayor Lewis Billings believes, to consider making
this process just a little bit easier by using the Provo Airport.
And while that time isn't now, it may not be too far away, say the industry
"I don't think there's any doubt that in the near future there is sufficient
population and business base in the Utah County area that it could indeed
support an airline service out of Provo," said Pat Morley, director of the
state transportation department's Division of Aeronautics.
The next step, Billings said, is determining just how soon it could happen;
the city should invest in a feasibility study of some kind to chart growth
rates and flight trends to get Provo on the airline industry's radar.
The airport is already growing up and out; in June it got a control tower
and a new taxiway is being built that is the length of the runway.
Between flight schools and business jet traffic, the regional airport sees
about 180,000 operations yearly. It's at a place, Billings said, that he
would like to see some market studies done to see if the airport could
handle a few commercial flights.
He encouraged the Municipal Council to consider putting aside money for
those studies and also plans to push it to Utah's legislative team in
Washington, D.C., when he meets with them.
Airport Manager Steve Gleason said there are no plans for bringing in
airlines yet, but they are in the middle of a construction project. A
taxiway is being built parallel to the main runway and the city is accepting
bids for phase two of the project.
Traffic at the airport has increased in the last several years as more and
more businesses started using private jets instead of commercial airlines to
move their employees around. Most of Provo's traffic comes from the local
flight schools and helicopter schools, but Gleason said in an interview
several months ago that the control tower could bring in more business jet
Commercial air at the airport, which could become inevitable as Utah County
continues to grow, won't mean the flight schools have to stop using Provo's
airport and it wouldn't mean bustling metropolitan airport with heavy air
traffic, Billings said. He's thinking a few flights a day to popular places
like Las Vegas, Long Beach, Calif., Mesa, Ariz. and Denver -- not just air
shuttle to Salt Lake.
"Basically, we've got to put our 'open for business' sign up," he said.
But airlines have to know one thing first -- what Provo can do for their
"They won't even give consideration to providing service to a community
unless they're sure they're not going to be losing their shirt," Morley
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