A radical idea: Build the new KCI in Johnson County

01/03/2014 11:42 AM

01/07/2014 6:19 PM

Here’s a radical idea: How about building this region’s new major airport in Johnson County?

The current Kansas City International Airport could be overhauled at a cost of $1 billion or more, according to a 2013 plan that has outraged many people who want to keep KCI pretty much as it is.

But some new figures raise the intriguing question of whether the area’s biggest airport really ought to be closer to where the most users appear to be coming from.

And according to those numbers, that’s from Kansas and, more specifically, from Johnson County.

KCI officials

did a parking facilities ZIP Code study

of who was in their lots in the month of October 2013.

The results, in a nutshell:

• 51 percent were from Kansas.

• 43 percent were from Missouri.

• 20 percent were from Kansas City, Mo., a city of 459,000 people.

• 13 percent were from Overland Park, a city of 175,000 people.

In fact, there were more vehicles from just Overland Park, Olathe and Shawnee than from all of Kansas City.

Johnson County is growing by 10,000 people or so a year, and that throws some weight behind the idea of building a major airport in that part of the metropolitan area.

And the trend appears to be in Kansas’ favor: In June 2008, 49 percent of the vehicles were from Kansas and 45 percent were from Missouri.

But now for the good reasons to keep KCI where it is.

That $1 billion figure doesn’t include pouring all new runways.

It doesn’t include building all the highways and interchanges and approach lanes that would be necessary for a truly new airport.

So the total cost for a large, new airport in Johnson County — assuming you could even find the space where people would allow it to be built — could be far higher than $1 billion.

Plus, much as I like looking at this data, it’s from only one month. And it’s unknown exactly what it measures. For example, how many actual airplane users arrived in each vehicle?

Finally, population growth north of the Missouri River and closest to the airport is pretty strong, too, so keeping the airport in that neck of the woods makes some sense.

In the end, it’s 99.9 percent sure that — when a decision is made later this year to do something about the current KCI — part of that plan will be to keep it where it is, in Kansas City.

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