As we plan for the future of our metropolitan area, one important stakeholder’s voice hasn’t been heard sufficiently. But there is still time to correct course.
It is totally understandable that Edgemoor Infrastructure & Real Estate, the winning bidder on the construction of a new $1 billion single terminal at Kansas City International Airport, would want to take a victory lap around Kansas City, where voters resoundingly approved the project.
So it is a positive step that Edgemoor representatives have decided to hold open forums in each of the city’s six council districts. Its upcoming “listening tour,” as it is known in politics, would give residents of the city the opportunity both to hear more about the airport plans, and also allow them to share their input and ask questions. Edgemoor is not only building the new facility. It is also designing and financing the entire endeavor, and these meetings will primarily address the design aspect of the new airport configuration.
When we heard about these meeting plans, it begged the question: What about the users of this regional airport who do not live inside the limits of Kansas City itself? Will they have any input into the design?
Although the vote was not held in Kansas, the local burden of paying the higher ticket and parking fees that will finance the new facility falls on the majority of the users of the airport. And those are area residents who happen to live on the Kansas side of the state line.
On Friday came word that at least one additional forum will be held at Johnson County Community College, in the epicenter of KCI travelers. This is good news, as Johnson Countians will disproportionately have to live with the decisions being made on the terminal and parking design.
But it is not only the those who live in Johnson County, with its population of nearly 600,000, who should be considered to provide Kansas input.
It would be expected that representatives from the massive military installation at Fort Leavenworth — also heavy users of KCI — would attend the new forum to add their voices. Its 10,000-plus active duty personnel and their families reside less than 20 miles from KCI, and they host thousands who come to Fort Leavenworth from around the world for training at the Army Command and General Staff College there.
Fort Leavenworth personnel should have every expectation that the new facility would include a designated lounge area for the military and their families to share, as most other major airports in America offer.
The residents of the six council districts in Kansas City are not likely to think of Fort Leavenworth. That is but one example of how a parochial tour could miss something critical for one of the airport’s primary stakeholders.
When details of the event at Johnson County Community College are formally announced, it is virtually guaranteed that hundreds who live on the Kansas side — from Johnson, Wyandotte, Leavenworth and other Kansas counties — will enthusiastically embrace the opportunity to attend.
We can anticipate they would be quite interested in the nuts and bolts of the design, from parking convenience to WiFi connections. Although it is not a design function, a discussion about additional shuttles for Johnson Countians and others who live 45 minutes or more from the airport would be an interesting topic to broach with attending airport executives.
There is no way to know what issues will be brought up, but it is absolutely imperative that the main users of the airport be treated with equal respect and allowed a prominent voice. I am glad that Kansas City Director of Aviation Patrick Klein and Edgemoor were receptive to the idea of getting firsthand input from Kansas-side travelers.