Flying into political flak: Airlines support a new single terminal KCI

Lou Salomon, an executive with AvAirpros, spoke to the council aviation committee.

Lou Salomon, an executive with AvAirpros, spoke to the council aviation committee.

The airlines at KCI, which would pay for a new single terminal airport, want one built to properly take the city into the future, their consultant said today.

A recent competing concept for renovating the more than 40-year-old airport would cost more overall and be inadequate, Lou Salomon, an executive with AvAirpros, told the city council aviation committee.

The competing plan by Crawford Architects proposes renovating one terminal for $335.6 million and renovating a second later.

A study group involving the KCI airlines and consultants has reported that a new single terminal airport would cost as little as $964 million, compared to more than $1 billion for renovating two terminals.

It is to make a final report soon and will recommend building the new single-terminal airport, Salomon said.

None of the money would come from Kansas City taxpayers but aviation revenue bonds to pay for it would have to be approved by a citywide vote.

Salomon said the Crawford proposal does not include enough space for parking, baggage, gates and more. So add costs for those needs and double overall costs for renovating two terminals, he said.

“By the time you do what you need to do, you’re kind of at the same place” of about $1 billion, he said, and “….quite honestly, we think it’s a lower level of customer service; …why would we ever go spend that kind of money to live with an inefficient operation?”

The airport should be built for far greater needs in 2030 or beyond, he said, with at least 35 gates instead of the 29 currently leased.

No proposed renovation or new construction would preserve the short walks residents like about KCI, he said, because security would have to be added to the outer area. But that would allow concessions, bathrooms and modern amenities beyond the security gates, he said, an area that can now be quite grim.

Councilwoman Teresa Loar, who questions the need for a new airport and approached the Crawford firm for an alternative, told Salomon, “You’ve got a long way to go to convince me.”

Councilman Quinton Lucas asked him why the city could not just keep doing upgrades and repairs as needed, a “band-aid approach.”

Salomon noted the city had already “cobbled things together” about a decade ago by spending more than $250 million for repairs.

“You’re asking can I just do this and spend $1/2 billion and limp along for 10 years,” he said.

Councilman Dan Fowler noted that city staff and airlines may be behind the single new terminal, but “now we’ve got 470,000 other people involved.”

Many of them ask him, “why are you doing anything” to the airport, he said, and what if they vote against bonds?

“That’s well beyond my crystal ball,” Salomon said.

If the council votes for a major renovation, he was asked, would the airlines be willing to abandon their single terminal after years of study and instead support renovation?

“I can’t answer for them,” he said.

Crawford officials were not at the meeting.

Jolie Justus, chair of the committee, said its next meeting would be Feb. 16, when it will take up airport improvements and deferred maintenance.

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