Citizens group’s report must make the case for a better KCI

04/27/2014 5:00 PM

04/25/2014 11:28 PM

The citizens group reviewing the future of Kansas City International Airport won’t deliver a unanimous conclusion in its report early next month.

That’s not surprising nor a big concern. Committee members have a wide range of views on a subject that’s been a lightning rod for controversy in this community for months.

But the credibility of the panel’s findings will be greatly enhanced if they can clearly spell out the best options for moving toward a more modern, still convenient airport that includes additional passenger-friendly amenities.

These include more restaurants and shops, restrooms, water fountains and additional charging stations, all in more spacious security areas.

Going small-time isn’t really an option, either. It would be absurd to pull back and decide to only pursue badly needed infrastructure improvements in plumbing and heating, then still be left with an antiquated facility that doesn’t serve all passengers well and doesn’t fit the image of an up-and-coming city. Even this would cost several hundred million dollars.

The terminal advisory group’s report needs to be detailed enough to spell out for Kansas Citians what they would get for the admittedly significant amounts of money — raised from passengers, not taxpayers — necessary to upgrade the airport for the next 40 years.

The members who favor improvements up to and including a new terminal have their work cut out for them. The airlines serving KCI and the federal security officials who protect it do not endorse major changes at this time.

However, as the panel’s consultant noted, the city needs to take advantage of its opportunity in the next few years to deal with as many of KCI’s deficiencies as possible.

In addition, the airlines did not say “no” to major upgrades. They recently agreed to work on a plan with city aviation officials on how to best revamp the airport. The proposal is due in two years, though it could come earlier.

The terminal advisory panel’s findings could help nudge these discussions along in a positive direction — if its findings are well-reasoned and clearly show Kansas Citians what they could get in the way of a better airport.

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