KCI will cost many millions to save or replace

A rendering of the new single airport terminal being discussed for KCI.

by Joe Lambe

Keep KCI or not, costs will be in the stratosphere.

In today’s dollars, it would be from $645-to-$785 million to repair KCI’s three terminals – and still face problems – or from $960 million-to-$1.2 billion to build a new, far more efficient airport, city aviation experts said.

They reported at a meeting of the mayor’s 24-member KCI advisory board, which is reviewing whether the airport should be replaced. Fierce opposition developed after the city council approved planning for a new one terminal airport.

The repair KCI bill could be cut by about a third if only two terminals were fixed and the other closed, the experts said Tuesday, but that might leave the city short of gates in the future.

With the current airport, a terminal must be closed for repairs and its load shifted to another terminal, meaning an extra one is likely to be needed.

And plenty of upgrades and repairs would still be needed when up to $785 million of repairs were done in 2020 or so, said Phil Muncy, deputy aviation director.

By then, heating and air conditioning and electrical systems installed in 2004 will need work, he said, along with other aging systems.

And problems caused by too small floor plates at the terminals would still exist, he said, with not enough room for more security, more bathrooms and much more.

And after that first round of repairs the debt will make it harder to sell additional bonds, he said.

“We have pushed, shoved, pulled and twisted this envelop about all we can,” Muncy said of the 1972 airport.

Group co-chairman David Fowler, said, “It’s almost like we’d be in a continual round robin of musical chairs on terminals during the remainder of my lifetime.”

John Green, aviation department chief financial officer, said a new airport could be funded by about $80 million total from federal and other grants and passenger fee charges, with the rest from revenue bonds.

At first the airlines’ cost per plane passenger would increase from among the lowest nationwide at $5.25 cents to more than $18 (in the top third of medium airports), Smith said, but that would decline as debt was paid.

The new airport would have a projected 20 percent decline in operating costs because of more efficiency and revenue, he said.

Fowler said the group would continue to learn about the numbers at the next meeting.

It is also in the process of hiring a consultant to review the data separately from the aviation department.

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