816 North

No new KCI — but perhaps some upgrades, users say

Updated: 2013-08-20T05:22:11Z

By DAVE HELLING

The Kansas City Star

Opponents of a new single-terminal Kansas City International Airport lined up Monday to explain why they’re fighting the $1.2 billion proposal.

It would be less convenient, they said. Too expensive. The area has other needs.

“There is not a more convenient airport than what we have now,” said Bill Flynt of Platte City, addressing an afternoon town hall panel assembled by U.S. Rep. Sam Graves. “The way to make it better is not to destroy its greatest strength.”

Graves, a Republican whose district includes KCI, has publicly opposed a new single terminal at the airport. Monday’s panel, which took testimony at Riverside City Hall, did not include any supporters of the idea.

But Graves — and others at the one-hour session — said there might be ways to improve the airport without significant changes to its basic design.

“We all realize there’s a need to modernize the airport,” said Kansas City councilman John Sharp, a member of Graves’ panel. “But I think every problem that people have brought up ... can be remedied without tearing down the building.”

Some who testified suggested linking terminals, or centralizing security screening. Others recognized the need for better de-icing systems.

A special city committee is studying options at the airport. Construction of a new single terminal, paid for by airport users, is one of those options.

One witness at Monday’s hearing supported the new-terminal plan.

“Although it is a big expense, I think KCI is outdated and will not get any better,” said David Napoli of Kansas City.

After the hearing Graves said he still opposes a new KCI.

“There’s certainly no reason why they can’t make improvements to the existing terminals,” he said. “(But) I haven’t heard an argument yet that makes sense to me, to be quite honest.”

It isn’t clear what effect Graves’ position will have.

Airport officials have said they may pursue a new terminal without federal financial aid, potentially limiting the Republican’s influence on the project.

And Graves — like many in Monday’s audience — doesn’t live in Kansas City, Mo., and would have no local vote if the plan goes on the ballot.

But the congressman could influence the Federal Aviation Administration’s review of the project once plans are finalized. His office has also talked with airline officials, who would have to sign off on any major changes at the airport.

Although Monday’s town hall panel was uniformly against a single terminal, it was politically bipartisan. Former U.S. Rep. Pat Danner, a Democrat, was a member.

To reach Dave Helling, call 816-234-4656 or send email to dhelling@kcstar.com.

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