KCI old but popular

KCI-public-hearingBy Joe Lambe

Many people in Kansas City like KCI just the way it is, thank you.

They told that to the Airport Terminal Advisory Group on Monday at the Robert J. Mohart Multipurpose Center in Midtown.

About 10 of them spoke at the public hearing – five times more than those supporting replacement of the old airport.

The mayor’s advisory group answered many questions directly and also with printed answers to often asked questions. The volunteer members said they would make their recommendation by the end of April.

Whatever happens, they noted, KCI needs many millions of dollars in work and will need more after that.

Whatever they recommend, said co-chair David Fowler, it will be for an airport that can last until about 2050 or longer.

“We can’t just do conservative things to the airport to leave it the way it is,” he said.

From printed answers to questions:

“KCI was conceived nearly a half century ago when aircraft, travel patterns, technology and security were entirely different….The airport was designed to maximize passenger convenience by decentralizing functions such as parking, ticketing and baggage handling and minimizing the walk from ground transportation to aircraft.”

Experts say KCI’s three terminal confirmation is unique (although one terminal was recently closed.)

And speakers Monday praised convenience that some said made it the nation’s best airport.

“I love it,” one said, “My guests who come to Kansas City love it.”

The printed answers noted that KCI has the lowest concession revenues of comparable airports and experts have noted problems like too few bathrooms, no expansion space and more.

One supporter said, “I travel to get from one place to another – I don’t travel to go to eat and shop.”

She added, “You want to change all of it – we don’t want it changed.”

Another said not to discard an airport just because it was 40 years old. “I’ve had work done on myself in the last 40 years just to keep up,” she said.

Another said the city had bungled the entire matter by not getting public input before the Aviation Department pressed for a new airport.

Slow down and get public input, he said.

Fowler noted that the city’s new contract with the eight airlines at KCI called for just that: the airlines are to be involved in a two-year public process to decide whether to do major renovations or replace KCI.

“It’s going to be seriously deliberated in the right way,” he said.

People are obviously not in favor of sacrificing convenience just for something new and modern, group members said.

In shaping their recommendation, Fowler said, “convenience is very high on the list.”

He said the detailed answers to 21 frequently asked questions will be up soon at KCITerminalAdvisoryGroup@kcmo.org.

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